It Was Twenty Years Ago Today; Leonard Bernstein and Beethoven in Berlin

This morning, in that twilight between sleep and wakefulness, when hallucinatory dreams are in full force, I started to hear the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. It was magical. Then I woke up.

A few hours later, I was still thinking about the incredible 9th when I remembered Leonard Bernstein’s performance in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It took only a few seconds of googling to be reminded that it was performed at Berlin’s Königliches Schauspielhaus exactly 20 years ago this evening, December 25, 1989.


It was an amazing performance.  So much came together in one extraodinary  moment – Bernstein’s career, the crumbling of the corrupt, authoritarian  East German government,  and a piece of music celebrating joy and freedom that culminates with the words of the poet Schiller, somewhat modified by Beethoven:

Be embraced, you millions!

This kiss for the whole world!

Brothers, beyond the star-canopy

Must a loving Father dwell.

Be embraced,

This kiss for the whole world!

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,

Daughter of Elysium,

Joy, beautiful spark of divinity

The whole thing is available on You Tube. These are the last six minutes as they were performed 20 years ago this evening.

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