"Let freedom live!"

Beethoven's 9th symphony under Leonard Bernstein at the Konzerthaus Berlin

By Konzerthaus Berlin

Leonard Bernstein is greeted euphorically at the Schauspielhaus by Gabriele SenftKonzerthaus Berlin

"I love this concert hall, I love the people here, and I love this audience. I’ll be back!" He kept his word: seven times from 1984 to 1989, Leonard Bernstein stood on the conductor’s podium of the Berlin Konzerthaus, at that time still the Schauspielhaus.

Numerous concertgoers as well as long-time Konzerthaus staff and orchestral members still recount humorous, fascinating and surprising encounters with the conductor, composer and music educator.

Leonard Bernstein on the conductor’s podium at the "Berlin Celebration Concert" (1989) by Ludwig SchirmerKonzerthaus Berlin

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".

The original score with Bernstein’s handwritten changes (2013) by Joachim LochKonzerthaus Berlin

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!"

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Berlin Celebration Concert Günther FriedrichKonzerthaus Berlin

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Konzerthaus Berlin

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