Skip to content

In Japan, Beethoven’s nickname is “Daiku” or “Big Nine.” The Ninth Symphony is an annual New Year’s event there, and in 2009 there were 55 performances in December and January alone. In 2020, a chorus of 10,000 participated in a performance. There is a history to this. In WWI, Japan was at war against Germany, and seized the German military base in Tsingtao China. 4,700 German POWs were taken, and many ended up at Banto, Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku. The prisoners set up music camps, and over one hundred concerts took place during the almost three years that POWs were detained at Bando. Some prisoners were given dispensation to leave the camp and teach Japanese children. Musicians spent months rehearsing the Ninth Symphony, and it was finally performed, with a chorus of 80, on June 1, 1918 in Barrack 1 of Bando Camp—the premiere of the work in Japan. After the war ended, the Germans put on a performance of the Ninth outside of their former prison wall. After the prisoners were repatriated, the people of Tokushima started a tradition of playing the ninth symphony on New Year’s Eve in memory of them. This tradition spread across the country and Beethoven’s music is played in every town across the country to celebrate the end of the year. In 2006, Japan made a movie about this history called “Baruto no gakuken.” It’s available in German.

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Sign In