The Uruguayan national anthem has been selected in a survey as third best in the world, surpassed — according to a British magazine — only by those of South Africa and Russia. “Too many national anthems suffer from dreary harmonies and dull platitudes”, The Economist wrote in publishing a poll of the world’s best national anthems. “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (God Bless Africa), the anthem of South Africa, was rated by the magazine to be the best in the world, Efe news reported.

Russia came in second in the polling, and the magazine asked rhetorically, “Could anything be more stirring than this performance belted out by the Red Army Choir?” And “for sheer exuberance, it is hard to beat”, said The Economic in an article published on December 19 about Uruguay’s national hymn, ranking it third. It said the anthem sounds more like the overture of a Gioacchino Rossini opera than like the anthem of a proud nation. Although the Uruguayan anthem has 11 verses, just one of them is regularly played at assorted events where it is appropriate. The entire anthem lasts about six minutes if properly played.

Uruguayan critic and musicologist Julio Cesar Huertas told Efe that the anthem was only officially played in its entirety on one occasion in the northwestern province of Paysandu.

The anthem dates back to 1840 and is attributed to Hungarian composer Francisco Jose Debali — born 1791 in Transylvania and died in 1859 in Montevideo — who “fought for Uruguay” because he was strongly influenced by what he felt the country represented, Huertas said.

The director of Uruguay’s national symphonic orchestra (Sodre), Diego Naser, said that the anthem is “very rich in the effect of its instrumentation,” given that it requires a “complete orchestra” to properly play and features “harmonic and musical climactic” moments. “It’s almost a war song, with a very strong patriotic commitment,” said Naser.