European Union External Action

Music for solidarity: The EU and India mark Europe Day with a special performance of Ode to Joy

09/05/2021 - 07:10
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The EU and India have come together to mark Europe Day through a distinctive performance of the European anthem "Ode to Joy". It has been arranged and performed by Dutch cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas, Indian sitarist Pandit Shubhendra Rao, and their son pianist and sitarist Ishaan Leonard Rao. It expresses the ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity through the universal language of music.

The melody used to symbolize the EU comes from the Ninth Symphony composed in 1823 by Ludwig van Beethoven, when he set music to the "Ode to Joy", Friedrich von Schiller's lyrical verse from 1785.The anthem symbolises not only the European Union but also Europe in a wider sense. The poem "Ode to Joy" expresses Schiller's idealistic vision of the human race becoming brothers - a vision Beethoven shared.

In 1972, the Council of Europe adopted Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" theme as its anthem. In 1985, it was adopted by EU leaders as the official anthem of the European Union. This particular rendition was recorded in New Delhi. Download as a ringtone (link is external)

Saskia Rao-de Haas is a world-renowned virtuoso cellist, composer, cultural entrepreneur and educationalist from the Netherlands. She was trained as a western cellist from a young age, but changed direction when she came in contact with Indian music in 1993. She is known as a master performer in Indian classical music and hailed as the creator of a new instrument: the Indian cello. Flute Maestro Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia speaks of his disciple Saskia as “someone who has been taught by God.” According to him, “everybody should listen to her music”. Her compositions with her sitarist husband, Pandit Shubhendra Rao are well known all over the world.

Critics and audiences alike have praised her for her artistic depth and technical virtuosity. She has performed at the most prestigious concert halls across the world, such as the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington DC, Musee Guimet in Paris, and the New Directions Cello Festival. She is the first non-Indian artist to have performed as a soloist at the prestigious Doverlane Music Conference in Kolkata. As a composer, she is eminent at bridging western and Indian classical music traditions. Along with Pandit Shubhendra Rao, she has composed music for world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Dutch Prime Minister.

Pandit Shubhendra Rao is an internationally acclaimed performer, composer, cultural entrepreneur and music educator. His relentless service in promoting Indian music has made him a highly respected figure in the field of music and education across the world. A protégé of Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar, Shubhendra Rao has established himself “not only as a master of his instrument but also as a thinking musician, constantly endeavouring to carry his instrument beyond conventional boundaries” and “a musical bridge to many cultures.” Critics and connoisseurs hail him as a worthy successor to his Guru’s tradition.

Internationally, he has performed at major music festivals and prestigious concert halls like the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Sydney Opera House, Salzburg International Music Festival, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, National Arts Festival in South Africa, the BRICS Summit in China, and Theatre de le Ville in Paris. In India, Shubhendra Rao has performed at major music festivals including the Doverlane Music Conference, ITC Sangeet Sammelan, Baba Harvallabh Sangeet Mahasabha, Shankarlal Festival, Gunidas Sammelan, Sankat Mochan Sammarroh, Kashi Utsav, and Swami Haridas Sammellan. His international tours have taken him to North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, most countries in Europe and Asia. In 2007, he was awarded the “Youth Icon for Classical Music” by Zee Television Network. In 2014, the Arts and Culture Society awarded him the ‘Delhi Ratna’ award. In 2018, he was awarded the ‘PHD Art and Culture Samman’ by the PHD Chamber of Commerce, as well as the first ‘Atal Behari Vajpayee National Award’ for his contribution to art and culture. This was followed by the prestigious “Art Karat Award for Excellence” in 2019.

Ishaan Leonard Rao is a 16-year old pianist and sitarist living in New Delhi. A child prodigy, he is the son of world-renowned musicians, Pandit Shubhendra Rao and Dutch cellist Saskia Rao-de Haas. Since a very young age, he has gone on concert tours and performed around the world with his parents. Ishaan started learning the sitar and the cello at the age of three, and the piano at the age of six. He currently learns piano from American pianist Raj Bhimani and Russian pianist Svetlana Radashkevich in New Delhi and continues to learn sitar from his father.

He made his solo piano concert debut at the age of nine in New Delhi. He was selected as a special performer for the 2017 ABRSM concerts in Delhi and Lucknow and has performed in India and beyond since 2014. In 2017, Ishaan was the youngest Indian to complete his ARSM performance diploma in piano. The same year, Ishaan also performed a 45 minute-long program for an international jury as a finalist in the ‘Young Musician of the Year’ award by the Olga and Jules Craen Foundation in Mumbai as the youngest candidate selected. In 2018, he performed at the Desert Song Festival in Alice Springs, Australia. Ishaan had his New York debut at the age of 14 in 2019 when he performed at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

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