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Volume 12• Number 1

Spring 2005


 

 

"Ode to Freedom": Bernstein's Ninth at the Berlin Wall

by Alexander Rehding


The Cold War ended on 9 November 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. What better opportunity to celebrate this historical event, and to capture the solemn joy of the moment, than with a performance of the most sublime of musical works—Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. What better work of art to celebrate the "Peaceful Revolution" of East Germany, which over the previous six months had effected change without bloodshed, for instance, in the weekly Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, which reminded the autocratic Socialist Party of the simple and powerful message, Wir sind das Volk—"We are the people." The world press agreed that the Germans were the happiest nation in the world. And the central statement of the Ninth Symphony, "Alle Menschen werden Brüder," reflected precisely the sentiment of those days. Over the Christmas holidays of the same year, the symphony was performed in both parts of the formerly divided city of Berlin under the baton of the media star Leonard Bernstein.

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