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Keri-Lyn Wilson: Beethoven Used Schiller Poem Because of His Musical Limitations

It is bad enough that Keri-Lyn Wilson, the founder and conductor of the “Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra,” to celebrate “freedom” and “Ukraine,” committed the heinous crime of removing “Freude” from Beethoven’s famous 9th symphony setting of Friedrich Schiller’s “An die Freude” ("Ode to Joy"), and then inserting in its stead, “Slava” ("Glory"), made notorious by Ukraine’s World War II collaborators of Adolf Hitler, led by Stepan Bandera. Since then, decades of Banderists have promulgated “Slava Ukraini” as their homage to the paramilitary force that slaughtered, primarily, Jews and Poles.

Perhaps worse is Wilson’s slander of Beethoven himself, in her attempted justification of the insertion of “Slava.” She began: “It was an idea I had because I felt it was even more powerful than Beethoven’s masterpiece, the greatest symphony perhaps ever written. Beethoven, he added words because he had so much more to say than what he felt music couldn’t say as well….” Just to underscore: Her idea was more powerful than Beethoven’s work, and Beethoven set the poem because he lacked a sufficient command of music to express all that he wanted to.

Putting aside the first part—as her hyperventilating sense of herself just leaves one speechless—the second part simply defies any sense of Beethoven. Simply put, he was famous both for his poetic sensibilities and for his command of the power of music to address the preconscious processes underlying the poetry, of which poetry itself could only provide a hint. And this was particularly the case in Beethoven’s contention about the greater challenge in setting a Schiller poem—the case here—compared to one by Goethe. One can only wonder at the extent to which Wilson simply fails to fathom any of Beethoven’s musical compositions.

Wilson’s explanation went further, but it did nothing to improve matters. Her run-on sentence ran on: “...and I felt that this is also a way for us, as a symbol of the power and talent of Ukraine’s cultural legacy, that will live on, that Putin is trying to destroy, that this gives us an extra voice as well, not only the power of our music, but the language is just as strong and vital, and that’s why it made this performance so special.”

And so, as she explained in the same interview, she certainly does crown every musical performance with language: “At the end of the concert, I yell ‘Slava Ukraini’ and there’s a huge response of the traditional ‘heroyim slava’ which means ‘Glory to our soldiers’ and every performance where we go, the audience erupts into this heroyim slava.”

There’s the possibly invented account that, when someone mentioned the word “culture,” Soviet leader Josef Stalin claimed that he wanted to reach for his gun. Wilson, in her short (6-minute) interview, provides an echo of that, along with an explanation of her baton technique. She explained that a cousin of hers “has been fighting at the start of the invasion in Bakhmut, and he’s still there. I also wanted to fight, but rather than with a gun, I held up my baton….”