Leonard Bernstein will conduct Christmas performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on both sides of the Berlin Wall in celebration of universal brotherhood, it was announced today.
Margaret Carson, a spokesman for the conductor-composer, said the first concert will be held at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a World War II ruin in West Berlin, on Dec. 23 and the second will be held Christmas Day at the Schauspielhaus theater in East Berlin. Both are near the Berlin Wall, which until recently divided the city.
The idea for the concerts originated with Bernstein after the wall was opened by East German authorities and East Germans streamed into West Berlin, Carson said. Bernstein has conducted peace concerts in Hiroshima, Japan, Warsaw and other cities in the past several years and has been active in efforts to end world conflict.
He has organized a multinational orchestra and chorus to perform the Beethoven work, which has a thrilling choral finale known as the “Ode to Joy.” Although most of the musicians will be from the Bavarian Radio Symphony, there will be players from New York, London, Paris, Dresden and possibly Leningrad, representing both West and East Germany and the four Allied powers that occupied Berlin after World War II, Carson said.
Bernstein sent word from his home in Connecticut that the celebration was inspired by “Schiller! Beethoven! Freude (joy)! Bruder (brother)! Freiheit (freedom)!”
“It’s all coming true! Hooray!” he said.