The best (and worst) national anthems: listen to David Mellor's verdict

18 August 2016, 11:53

Which country has the finest national anthem? Whose is the dullest? We asked our music reviewer David Mellor to rank, rate or berate each piece and then record his verdict.

Top 5 national anthems

1. Uruguay

Controversially, perhaps, it’s Uruguay that takes the top spot musically for David Mellor. It's an anthem with real bite.

2. Poland

David gives a rare thumbs up to this "really good tune", which was even covered by Sir Edward Elgar. Listen to a clip of the music and David's verdict here:

3. Russia

Many of Russia's athletes were absent from the Rio 2016 Olympics because of doping allegations. But that national anthem! Is it any wonder that the country that gave us Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Rachmaninov has such a cracker?

4. Switzerland

A surprise entry at number 4 is the Swiss anthem. In David’s view, Switzerland is playing with the big boys.

5. Japan

David quite likes the Japanese anthem – languid, contemplative and somewhat like an epic film score. Listen to a music clip and David’s verdict below.

Best of the rest

United Kingdom

Team GB is flying high in the medal table at the Rio 2016 Olympics, but do they have a golden anthem to match? David Mellor is not so sure...


Quiz: How well do you know the words to the National Anthem? >

The best Olympic anthems >


All stand. Hands on hearts. Cue the tears and the flurry of gold medals. We're heading state-side, but is David?


A national anthem penned by Haydn was always going to be a strong contender – the musical equivalent of a German set-piece outside the penalty box.


A classic tune - with all the force of a Zinadine Zidane head-butt. But how does David rate it?


The home of European bureaucracy must have a top-notch tune to match, mustn't it?


"You could imagine Rossini writing that," says David of the Italian national anthem, but "not on one of his best days... Compared to most of the rest, actually quite good."


David's a big fan of the patriotic songs sung by the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling, but he's not so keen on their chosen national anthem.


Not among the most inspiring of national anthems. "Why, oh, why end up with a piece like this?" David Mellor asks.


Poor old Austria "was robbed" because the Germans stole their national anthem... and left them with this.


"Spain has wonderful music," says David, "but there's nothing very Spanish about this... Like a bit of an operetta that everyone has forgotten about."


David's not impressed. "Are you going to remember this tune 10 minutes after you've stopped listening to it?"


"What on earth do they sing to that?" asks David. "What an effort when there isn't a tune that warms the cockles of the heart."

Czech Republic

"Prague is associated with music," says David, "not stuff like this."


What will David make of the national anthem from the home of vibrant Gypsy folk music?


"Where's the inspiration?" asks David, "At least with Iceland, you can say it wasn't the birthplace of Beethoven."


David's dubious about the "rather dull Communist approach...Why didn't Dvorak, Smetana or Josef Suk write this anthem?"


Another proud sporting nation. But we want to know about the tune...


Land of my Fathers, says David, "is the kind of tune that makes me wish I was Welsh... Really a good one."