Sunday, November 8, 2009

PA Arts Sunday - Artists and the Berlin Wall

It is still Sunday in Alaska, but in Berlin it is the 20th anniversary of the breach of the Berlin Wall. On November 9th, 1989:

After several weeks of civil unrest, that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, parts of the wall were chipped away by a euphoric public and by souvenir hunters; industrial equipment was later used to remove almost all of the rest.

Seven weeks later, on Christmas Day, 1989, Leonard Bernstein directed members of the Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Dresden, Kirov Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus Konig, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, in a prformance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony in Berlin, to commemorate the wall's fall.

Here they are in the final movement, the Ode to Joy. Here's a description:

On Christmas Day, December 25, 1989, Bernstein conducted the Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in East Berlin's Schauspielhaus (Playhouse) as part of a celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The concert was broadcast live in more than twenty countries to an estimated audience of 100 million people. For the occasion, Bernstein reworded Friedrich Schiller's text of the Ode to Joy, substituting the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy). Bernstein, in the introduction to the program, said that they had "taken the liberty" of doing this because of a "most likely phony" story, apparently believed in some quarters, that Schiller wrote an "Ode to Freedom" that is now presumed lost. Bernstein's comment was, "I'm sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing."


Durruti said...

And let us not forget that it was in no some measure due to the policies of the much-abused President Reagan that the people of East Germany and Eastern Europe were set free. The American Left at the time were disgusted that Reagan was "rocking the boat" and were downcast at the collapse of the Soviet Union. The British Leftist, George Galloway (nowadays a defender of Islamic extremism) actually said that the day the Wall came down was "the worst day of my life".
It was shortly after the demise of the Soviet Union that the American Left suddenly became fascinated by a re-emergent Islamic fundamentalism. After all , nature does abhor a vacuum.

Philip Munger said...


Anyone who read Hedrick Smith's The Russians when it came out in 1975, as I did, and who closely studied the mounting pressures on the USSR during the decade leading up to Reagan's 1980 election, has little doubt that Reagan sped up the USSR's demise.

Probably by about three or four weeks....

Durruti said...

How wonderful that you read a book about the failing Soviet state - if only more on the American Left had been aware of the shortcomings and
disorganization of this repressive regime (especially as they defended it for ao long). However, your petulant and snide comments about Reagan are completely wrong. As someone who spent some time in both East Germany and the Soviet Union, it was obvious that Reagan was the communist's worst nightmare.
I suggest you expand your reading matter to cover more than just one book about the subject. It may also help you to talk to former officials of the DDR and the Soviet Union, as I have, to find out what a huge effect the President had on hastening the demise of this evil regime.
For those of your followers who still see the Iron Curtain through rose-tinted glasses may I suggest they watch a film entitled "The Lives Of Others". It is a timely reminder of how life really was for those forced to actually live under
Communism. Those who supported Marxism from the freedom of the West may find the film enlightening.
Government isn't always the answer.

Durruti said...

At the anniversary of such a truly memorable event in world history we can only thank our lucky stars that we have a President who can put the fall of the Berlin Wall into it's true perspective.In his televised speech sent from Washington to those world leaders gathered in Berlin, Obama didn't once mention the Soviet Union, Communism, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher or the Berlin airlift...however he did find time in his speech to mention the most important aspect of this week's celebrations.....and I quote..

""Few would have foreseen ... that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent. But human destiny is what human beings make of it."

You see, all history is just a prelude to that most momentous historical event of all...the election of Barack Hussein Obama....mmm, mmm, mmm"