Conducted by Leonard Bernstein, THE BERLIN CELEBRATION CONCERT is an historic performance marking the fall of the Berlin Wall. Performed on Christmas Day 1989 in the former East Berlin’s Schauspielhaus near the Berlin Gate. He conducted the same work in West Berlin the previous day.

The concert unites an international cast of celebrated musicians and vocalists from German, England, France and the United States for a moving performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.   In the fourth movement Bernstein felt compelled by the “power of the moment” substitute the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy) to commemorate the return of freedom to Germany and the diminishment of the cold war among nations. The poem was written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785 and revised in 1803, with additions made by the composer.

The concert was broadcast live in more than twenty countries to an estimated audience of 100 million people. Bernstein, in his spoken introduction, added, “I’m sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing.”

This was conducted in the last year of Bernstein’s life.  The celebration was held just over twenty-five years ago.  It is said that a tear falls from his eye at 1:25:45, the very end of the 4th act.

We need this kind of spirit today.

Orchestral members were from the Symphonieorchester des Bayerisches Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Dresden, Leningrad Kirov Theatre, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris orchestras.

The symphony is in four movements, Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso; Scherzo: Molto vivace – Presto; Adagio molto e cantabile – Andante moderato – Tempo primo – Andante moderato – Adagio – Lo stesso tempo and Recitative  (Presto – Allegro ma non troppo – Vivace – Adagio cantabile – Allegro assai – Presto: O Freunde) – Allegro molto assai: Freude, schöner Götterfunken – Alla marcia – Allegro assai vivace: Froh, wie seine Sonnen – Andante maestoso: Seid umschlungen, Millionen! – Adagio ma non troppo, ma divoto: Ihr, stürzt nieder – Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato: (Freude, schöner Götterfunken – Seid umschlungen, Millionen!) – Allegro ma non tanto: Freude, Tochter aus Elysium! – Prestissimo, Maestoso, Molto prestissimo: Seid umschlungen, Millionen!

Beethoven changes the usual pattern of Classical symphonies in placing the scherzo movement before the slow movement.

First movement is in sonata form, and the mood is often stormy. The opening theme, played pianissimo over string tremolos, so much resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning, many commentators have suggested that was Beethoven’s inspiration—but from within that musical limbo emerges a theme of power and clarity that later drives the entire movement. At the outset of the recapitulation section, the theme returns fortissimo in D major, rather than the opening’s D minor. The introduction also uses the mediant to tonic relationship, which further distorts the tonic key until, finally, the bassoon plays in its lowest possible register.  The coda employs the chromatic fourth interval.

Second movement is a scherzo and trio, is also in D minor, with the introduction bearing a passing resemblance to the opening theme of the first movement. At times during the piece, Beethoven specifies one downbeat every three beats—perhaps because of the fast tempo—with the direction ritmo di tre battute (“rhythm of three beats”), and one beat every four bars with the direction ritmo di quattro battute (“rhythm of four beats”).

Beethoven had been criticised before for failing to adhere to standard form for his compositions. He used this movement to answer his critics. Normally, a scherzo is in triple time. Beethoven wrote this piece in triple time, but punctuated it in a way that, when coupled with the tempo, makes it sound as if it were in quadruple time.

While adhering to the standard ternary design of a dance movement (scherzo-trio-scherzo, or minuet-trio-minuet), the scherzo section has an elaborate internal structure; it is a complete sonata form. Within this sonata form, the first group of the exposition starts out with a fugue before modulating to C major for the second part. The exposition then repeats before a short development section. The recapitulation further develops the exposition, also containing timpani solos. A new development section leads to the repeat of the recapitulation, and the scherzo concludes with a brief codetta.

The contrasting trio section is in D major and in duple time. The trio is the first time the trombones play in the movement. Following the trio, the second occurrence of the scherzo, unlike the first, plays through without any repetition, after which there is a brief reprise of the trio, and the movement ends with an abrupt coda.

Third movement is a lyrical slow movement, in B-flat major, in a loose variation form, with each pair of variations progressively elaborating the rhythm and melody. The first variation, like the theme, is in 4/4 time, the second in 12/8. The variations are separated by passages in 3/4, the first in D major, the second in G major. The final variation is twice interrupted by episodes in which loud fanfares for the full orchestra are answered by octaves played by the first violins alone. A prominent horn solo is assigned to the fourth player. Trombones are tacet for the movement.

Fourth movement
Presto; Allegro molto assai (Alla marcia); Andante maestoso; Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato. Duration approx. 24 mins.

The famous choral finale is Beethoven’s musical representation of Universal Brotherhood and follows the same overall pattern as the Ninth Symphony as a whole. The scheme is as follows:

First “movement”: theme and variations with slow introduction. The main theme, which first appears in the cellos and basses, is later recapitulated with voices.

Second “movement”: 6/8 scherzo in military style (begins at “Alla marcia,” words “Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen”), in the “Turkish style”—and concludes with a 6/8 variation of the main theme with chorus.

Third “movement”: slow meditation with a new theme on the text “Seid umschlungen, Millionen!” (begins at “Andante maestoso”)

Fourth “movement”: fugato finale on the themes of the first and third “movements” (begins at “Allegro energico”)
The movement has a thematic unity, in which every part is based on either the main theme, the “Seid umschlungen” theme, or some combination of the two.

The first “movement within a movement” itself is organized into sections:

An introduction, which starts with a stormy Presto passage. It then briefly quotes all three of the previous movements in order, each dismissed by the cellos and basses, which then play in an instrumental foreshadowing of the vocal recitative. At the introduction of the main theme, the cellos and basses take it up and play it through.

The main theme forms the basis of a series of variations for orchestra alone.

The introduction is then repeated from the Presto passage, this time with the bass soloist singing the recitatives previously suggested by cellos and basses.

The main theme again undergoes variations, this time for vocal soloists and chorus.[21]

Text of the fourth movement

The text is largely taken from Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, The text without repeats is shown below, with a translation into English.[23] The score includes many repeats.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen,
und freudenvollere.

Frieheit
Frieheit

Frieheit, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

Deine Zauber binden wieder (repeat)
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!

Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele (repeat)
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!

Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.

Küsse gab sie uns und Reben, (repeat)
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.

Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.

Frieheit, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

Deine Zauber binden wieder (repeat)
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Über Sternen muß er wohnen.

Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us instead strike up more pleasing
and more joyful ones!

Freedom!
Freedom!

Freedom, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, burning with fervour,
heavenly being, your sanctuary!
Your magic brings together
what fashion has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.

Whoever has been lucky enough
to become a friend to a friend,
Whoever has found a beloved wife,
let him join our songs of praise!
Yes, and anyone who can call one soul
his own on this earth!
Any who cannot, let them slink away
from this gathering in tears!

Every creature drinks in joy
at nature’s breast;
Good and Bad alike
follow her trail of roses.
She gives us kisses and wine,
a true friend, even in death;
Even the worm was given desire,
and the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, just as His suns hurtle
through the glorious universe,
So you, brothers, should run your course,
joyfully, like a conquering hero.

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss is for the whole world!
Brothers, above the canopy of stars
must dwell a loving father.
Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, o world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.
Towards the end of the movement, the choir sings the last four lines of the main theme, concluding with “Alle Menschen”, before the soloists sing for one last time the song of joy at a slower tempo. The chorus repeats parts of “Seid umschlungen, Millionen! …”, then quietly sings, “Tochter aus Elysium”. And finally, “Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Götterfunken!”.[24]

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