We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Recorded live in the Schauspielhaus on Christmas Day, 1989, this Choral Symphony celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And it’s some of the last work Bernstein did – he died in November the following year.
An ‘Ode to Freedom’, rather than the usual ‘Ode to Joy’, Bernstein felt authorised ‘by the power of the moment’ to change the word ‘Freude’ to ‘Freiheit’ (which may be closer to Schiller’s original intention). So this is very much the record of an occasion.
In the choral finale, the performance really takes off, with choirs and soloists singing at full stretch. The first cry of ‘Freiheit!’ ('Freedom!') and the choral answer are completely thrilling, and must have galvanised the audience in what was still officially East Berlin.
Here's that 1989 performance of the finale of the 9th:
Some Wiki info below the fold about Beethoven's most famous work -
Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre's Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him. However, two years earlier, Umlauf had watched as the composer's attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio ended in disaster.
So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the totally deaf Beethoven.
At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.
There are a number of anecdotes. Based on the testimony of the participants, there are suggestions that it was under-rehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution. On the other hand, the premiere was a great success. In any case, Beethoven was not to blame, as violistJosef Bohm recalled: "Beethoven directed the piece himself; that is, he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he raised, at other times he shrunk to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".
When the audience applauded—testimonies differ over whether at the end of the scherzo or the whole symphony—Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting.
Because of that, the contralto Caroline Ungerwalked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause.(emphasis mine)
According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them."
The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. The theatre house had never seen such enthusiasm in applause.
At that time, it was customary that the Imperial couple be greeted with three ovations when they entered the hall. The fact that five ovations were received by a private person was considered almost indecent. Police had to break off this spontaneous explosion of ovations.
‘Freude,’ ‘Freiheit,’ 'French Fries,' what does it matter. As far as I am concerned they could be reciting the McDonalds' menu, though if I understood German I might have a different opinion. Divine music. One does not need to know the words to be moved by this music. I liked when around 1:53, Bernstein jumped.
That was a trip down Memory Lane for me, Bird Dog. Bernstein looks so haggard in this film. I spent my first two years of college study at Harvard/Radcliffe, and my last two at Columbia University. While at Harvard, I joined the Radcliffe Choral Society and in 1947, the Chorus supported the Boston Symphony in its concert containing The Beethoven Ninth.
Bernstein, a young, handsome and vital man at that point, conducted the concert. I remember when he turned up at Symphony Hall to rehearse us, dressed in a canary-yellow turtleneck pullover, and causing the girl members of the chorus hysterics and heart palpitations. He was alive, so intense, so thrilled with the music that I've never forgotten it. And what a performance it was, the beginning of my lifelong infatuation with Bernstein.
The year before, our chorus was supporting the Boston Symphony in a performance of the Brahms' Requiem -- another gorgeous crowd-pleaser conducted by Serge Koussevitsky. Koussie died the following year.
Thinking back, I was extraordinarily privileged to have sung [along with a bunch of other singers, but so what] under two such great conductors.