The Swiss National Anthem

CD CCH 3330.2 swissmusic

Schweizerpsalm - Basler Madrigalisten; Cantique suisse - Ensemble Vocal de Villars-sur-Glâne; Salmo svizzero - Coro della Radio Svizzera, Lugano; Psalm svizzer - Chor da concert grischun

This content was published on April 5, 2002 - 10:36

The story of the Swiss National Anthem

It was the summer of 1841. Alberik Zwyssig (1808-1854), a priest and composer from Uri, was visiting his brother at St.Carl, a magnificent patrician's house at the gates of Zug, when he received mail from Leonhard Widmer. Widmer (1809-1867), a music publisher, journalist and songwriter from Zurich, entrusted the musician with a patriotic poem that he had written and wanted set to music. Zwyssig chose to use a hymn that he had composed to the psalm "Diligam te Domine" (I will love Thee, O Lord) for an ordination service in 1835 when he was music director at the monastry in Wettingen.
He worked on his adaption until late autumn. Finally, on the evening of St.Cecilia's day, Monday 22 November, 1841, in the study looking out over the lake and the city, Zwyssig rehearsed his "Schweizerpsalm" (Swiss Psalm) for the first time with four residents of Zug.

A patriotic song

The new patriotic song was first published two years later, appearing in the commemorative brochure for the anniversary celebration of Zurich's integration into the Swiss Confederation. It was also performed at the National Singing festival in the same year, where it was received with acclaim by the audience. The "Swiss Psalm" was soon performed by male choirs throughout Switzerland (thanks to translations and was frequently sung at patriotic celebrations. Numerous attempts were made between 1894 and 1953 to have it declared the Swiss National Anthem, but they were consistently turned down by the Swiss government on the reason that a national anthem should not be selected by government decree but by popular opinion.

The Swiss National Anthem

In fact, there was another song that was used for official political and military occasions at the time, which was equally popular. "Rufst Du mein Vaterland" (When My Fatherland Calls) was sung to the same melody as "God save the King (Queen)", which occasionally led to embarrassing situations as international contacts increased during the course of the 20th century.
It was for this reasons that the Swiss government declared the "Swiss psalm" a fully and unmistakably Swiss creation, the provisional Swiss National Anthem in 1961. Finally, on 1. April 1981, the "Swiss Psalm" was officially declared the Swiss National Anthem, a purely Swiss song, dignified and ceremonial, the kind of national anthem that the majority of citizens would like.

The text of "Swiss Psalm"

Leonhard Widmer's German text and its (at times rather free) translations in the other three national languages speak of the many timeless natural beauties of Switzerland - the magnificent Alps, the calm lakes, the fertile pastures - of the peace that its inhabitants find here, and of the divine gift which it represents.

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1. Trittst im Morgenrot daher,
Seh' ich dich im Strahlenmeer,
Dich, du Hocherhabener, Herrlicher!
Wenn der Alpenfirn sich rötet,
Betet, freie Schweizer, betet!
Eure fromme Seele ahnt
Gott im hehren Vaterland,
Gott, den Herrn, im hehren Vaterland.

2. Kommst im Abendglühn daher,
Find' ich dich im Sternenheer,
Dich, du Menschenfreundlicher, Liebender!
In des Himmels lichten Räumen
Kann ich froh und selig träumen!
Denn die fromme Seele ahnt
Gott im hehren Vaterland,
Gott, den Herrn, im hehren Vaterland!

3. Ziehst im Nebelflor daher,
Such' ich dich im Wolkenmeer,
Dich, du Unergründlicher, Ewiger!
Aus dem grauen Luftgebilde
Bricht die Sonne klar und milde,
Und die fromme Seele ahnt
Gott im hehren Vaterland,
Gott, den Herrn, im hehren Vaterland!

4. Fährst im wilden Sturm daher,
Bist du selbst uns Hort und Wehr,
Du, allmächtig Waltender, Rettender!
In Gewitternacht und Grauen
Lasst uns kindlich ihm vertrauen!
Ja die fromme Seele ahnt
Gott im hehren Vaterland!
Gott, den Herrn, im hehren Vaterland!

Cantique suisse

Sur nos monts, quand le soleil
Annonce un brillant réveil,
Et prédit d'un plus beau jour le retour,
Les beautés de la patrie
Parlent à l'âme attendrie:
Au ciel montent plus joyeux
Les accents d'un coeur pieux.
Les accents émus d'un coeur pieux.

Lorsqu'un doux rayon du soir
Joue encore dans le bois noir,
Le coeur se sent plus heureux près de Dieu.
Loin des vains bruits de la plaine
L'âme en paix est plus sereine:
Au ciel montent plus joyeux
Les accents d'un coeur pieux,
Les accents émus d'un coeur pieux.

Lorsque dans la sombre nuit
La foudre éclate avec bruit,
Notre coeur pressent encore le Dieu fort;
Dans l'orage et la détresse,
Il est notre forteresse.
Offrons-lui des coeurs pieux,
Dieu nous bénira des cieux,
Dieu nous bénira du haut des cieux.

Des grands monts vient le secours,
Suisse, espère en Dieu toujours!
Garde la foi des aïeux, vis comme eux!
Sur l'autel de la patrie
Mets tes biens, ton coeur, ta vie!
C'est le trésor précieux
Que Dieu bénira des cieux,
Que Dieu bénira du haut des cieux.

Salmo svizzero

Quando l'alpe già rosseggia
Quando bionda aurora il mattin c'indora
L'alma mia t'adora re del ciel!A pregare allor t'atteggia;
In favor del patrio suol,
Cittadino Dio lo vuol.

Se di stelle è un giubilo la celeste sfera
Te ritrovo a sera o Signor!
Nella notte silenziosa
L'alma mia in Te riposa;
Liberta, concordia, amor,
all' Elvezia ognor.

Se di nubi un velo m'asconde il tuo cielo
Pel tuo raggio anelo Dio amore!
Fuga o sole quei vapori
E mi rendi i tuoi favori:
Di mia patria deh! Pietà
Brilla, sol di verità.

Quando rugge e strepita impetuoso il nembo
M'è ostel tuo grembo o Signor!
In te fido Onnipossente
Deh, proteggi nostra gente;
Libertà, concordia, amor,
All Elvezi serba ognor.

Psalm svizzer

En l'aurora la damaun ta salida il carstgaun,
Spiert etern dominatur, Tutpussent!
Cur ch'ils munts straglischan sura,
Ura liber Svizzer, ura.
Mia olma senta ferm,
Mia olma senta ferm Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern, Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern.

Er la saira en splendur da las stailas en l'azur
Tai chattain nus, creatur, Tutpussent!
Cur ch'il firmament sclerescha
En noss cors fidanza cresca.
Mia olma senta ferm,
Mia olma senta ferm Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern, Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern.

Ti a nus es er preschent en il stgir dal firmament,
Ti inperscrutabel spiert, Tutpussent!
Tschiel e terra t'obdeschan
Vents e nievels secundeschan.
Mia olma senta ferm,
Mia olma senta ferm Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern, Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern.

Cur la furia da l'orcan fa tremblar il cor uman
Alur das ti a nus vigur, Tutpussent!
Ed en temporal sgarschaivel
Stas ti franc a nus fidaivel.
Mia olma senta ferm,
Mia olma senta ferm Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern, Dieu en tschiel,
Il bab etern.

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