"I love this concert hall, I love the people here!"
Leonard Bernstein arrived at the Schauspielhaus for the first time on 24.10.1984 – with the Vienna Philharmonic. In October 1987, he once again took to the stage of the Great Hall, conducting Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra three times. The occasion for these concerts was the 750th anniversary of the city of Berlin. Franz Schubert’s Symphony in C Major D. 944 and Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony in D Major were on the programme.
Bernstein conducted the most famous Schauspielhaus concert on 25.12.1989 – shortly after the fall of the Wall. Under the title "The Berlin Celebration Concert", he conducted an orchestra that had never existed in this form until then. On stage were musicians from both German states and those of the anti-Hitler coalition. The concert became a spectacular and symbolic event. On the programme: Beethoven’s moving Ninth Symphony with the famous final chorus, whose text Bernstein changed for the occasion. "Ode to Joy" thus became "Ode to Freedom".
Particularly touching was a handwritten change that Bernstein made in his score: In "Ode to Joy", Bernstein replaced the word "joy" with "freedom" each time. A quotation from Bernstein could also be read in the programme brochure that evening: "[…] If there ever were a historical moment in which one can neglect the theoretical discussions of academics in the name of human freedom – this is it. And I believe that Beethoven would have given us his blessing. Let freedom live!"
Bernstein was always a political person. After the "Berlin Celebration Concert", he and his long-time assistant Craig Urquhart made their way to the Berlin Wall. There he borrowed a hammer from a little boy and chipped away some pieces of the Wall. He took them home to his family – special souvenirs with a strong symbolic character.
© Konzerthaus Berlin