Bernstein’s legendary live recording from the “Festival of Jubilation” around the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989
On Christmas Day, December 1989 Leonard Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with an international cast in the Konzerthaus at Gendarmenmark, Berlin. Significantly the words from Schiller’s “Ode an die Freude” (Ode to Joy) were changed: the word “Freude” (Joy) became “Freiheit” (Freedom) – an intention that was said to have been in mind of Schiller and Beethoven already. Four soloists, three choirs and members of six top orchestras, representing the two German States and the four Occupying Power States of post-war Berlin, participated: Musicians from orchestras of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, from Dresden, Leningrad (St Petersburg), London, New York and Paris. Not one, but three choirs supported him at his great Berlin concert: the Bavarian Radio Chorus; members of the Radio Chorus of what had been East Berlin; and the Children's Choir of the Dresden Philharmonie. It was only natural to have children participate and carry their experience of this performance into their adult lives. The solo quartet was June Anderson, soprano; Sarah Walker, mezzo-soprano; Klaus König, tenor; and Jan-Hendrik Rootering, bass.
As Bernstein's biographer (and producer) Humphrey Burton notes, the festive Berlin performances were to mark the absolute climax in the public life of the world citizen Leonard Bernstein. he shook people awake from the rostrum, surrendering to Beethoven's music and yet rendering it with all his heart and soul at the same time. He lit a torch for the love of freedom and the longing for freedom that extended far beyond the occasion and is as relevant today as it was thirty years ago.
May this performance of the Ninth Symphony – the Harmony of the World resounding in Berlin – play a part in ensuring that this joy, ‘bright spark of divinity’, will never end” -- Justus Frantz, organizer of the concert
“I feel this is a heaven-sent moment to sing ‘Freiheit’ wherever the score indicates the word ‘Freude’. If ever there was a historic time to take an academic risk in the name of human joy, this is it, and I am sure we have Beethoven’s blessing. ‘Es lebe die Freiheit!’” -- Leonard Bernstein
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral'