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Haydn: String Quartet Op. 76

Here’s a hint: a birthday present valued “more than all else”…

Today, this melody is famous as the German national anthem, and notorious for the period during which it was the anthem of Nazi Germany. But the story goes back well before the Nazis—all they did, in fact, was tamper with the words to emphasize their agenda of national and racial chauvinism. The anthem had been officially adopted after World War I by the Weimar Republic. The “modern” lyrics, beginning with “Deutschland über alles,” or “Germany before everything else,” date from the 1840s, when they were re-written to reflect the struggle for national unification. A generation earlier, in the 1790s, Joseph Haydn had set a different text, celebrating the rule (and written for the birthday) of Emperor Franz II of Austria. The stirring melody became so popular that Haydn reused it often, as in his so-called “Emperor” quartet.

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