Leonard Bernstein's 'Ode to Freedom'

Sunday Afternoon, Nov. 9: Hear the Finale to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Recorded in 1989 in Berlin

This feature originally ran in 2009.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, WQXR presents a unique musical reminder of that extraordinary time.

On Christmas Day, 1989, just six weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, an ailing Leonard Bernstein led a celebratory performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 at the Schauspielhaus, near the site of the demolished wall in East Berlin. The orchestra consisted of musicians from both East and West Germany, plus the four occupying powers who had waged war against Germany in World War II: Great Britain, France, Russia and the United States. The four soloists that day were June Anderson from the U.S., Sarah Walker from the U.K., Klaus Konig from East Germany, and Jan-Hendrik Rootering from West Germany.

When these musicians gathered in Berlin, residents everywhere were chipping and chiseling away at the hated wall. Leonard Bernstein carved out a chunk himself and sent it back to his family in New York. As Humphrey Burton notes in his biography of the conductor, “The entire world was watching Berlin’s euphoria and Bernstein was at the heart of the celebrations: because of his past endeavors it seemed quite natural for an American Jew to be in charge of Germany’s reunification celebration.”

Adding to the symbolism of the event was a change in the music itself: In the final movement, the word "Freiheit" (Freedom) was substituted for the word "Freude," making it an ode to freedom rather than an ode to joy. Although traditionalists resented the tampering with a revered German classic, the gesture was well received around the world.

This concert was recorded and subsequently released by Deutsche Grammophon. Sunday afternoon, WQXR presents the final movement of the symphony.

Recording Details:
Ode to Freedom Beethoven: Symphony No.9 in D minor Op.125, Leonard Bernstein, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Dresden, Kirov Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, June Anderson, Sarah Walker, Klaus Konig, Jan-Hendrik Rootering. Live recording in Schauspielhaus Berlin, 25-12-1989.

Comments [7]

Frank from UWS

BIG disappointment. I was looking forward to hearing Beethoven's Ninth. Kept the radio on. I get the final "Ode to Joy" of the symphony - and that's it! Can you believe the programming geniuses at WQXR didn't trust their listenership enough to play the full symphony - even though it's the work that wins the Classical Countdown year after year and that listeners WANT to hear?

It's unfathomable why they chose to do this. The only answer I can grasp at is that it takes away time from underwriting credits. But that's lame. Why not play a bunch before and after if you must? (Like sporting events do.)


Nov. 09 2014 07:49 PM
Richard from Midtown

A great recording. Can't wait to hear this. I wish I knew what time but will keep my radio on!

Nov. 09 2014 10:49 AM
Bernie from UWS

Can't wait to hear this today. What time???

Nov. 09 2014 06:49 AM
Gary Friedland from teaneck nj

a grand performance by a masterful conductor, for a uplifting and historical
presentation in the 20th century.

Nov. 13 2009 09:46 PM

Excellent. The 9th (and little else) makes me thing there is still hope for mankind.

Thank You for playing this wonderful performance and moment in history

Nov. 09 2009 10:41 PM
Richard S Mitnick from Highland Park, New Jersey

WNET repeated the GP video of the concert. I was lucky and recorded it the last time they ran it. I made a DVD and then ripped that to .mp4 to have on the computer and on the Zune player.

The WNET version might be aired with pitching. I am told that there is a pitch free European version available at a very popular torrent site.

Nov. 09 2009 10:33 PM


Nov. 09 2009 09:11 PM

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