Today I listened to Beethoven’s 9th.
Back 32 years ago, in 1989, Christmas Day… there was a pivotal moment in my life that I remember mostly for its symbolism.
I was born during the latter stages of WW2, but I grew up under the belief that we were always just a hiccup away from nuclear war.
That 1989 Christmas day I was sitting with my family in front of the TV to listen to Leonard Bernstein conduct Beethoven’s 9th symphony. We were living in Vienna at the time, and had just observed the fall of the Berlin Wall and its ramifications — on our doorstep so to speak.
And when the Ode to Joy was sung that Christmas Day, we unexpectedly heard the choir change the words from Freude (joy) to Freiheit (freedom)… I still remember the way I felt. That glorious music, written by a deaf man, conducted by a American Jewish terminally ill gay man, sung in a city so torn by war and division …
To this day, I can’t hear that movement, that choir, without the tears welling up.
We had such high hopes.
Alle Menschen werden Brüder… Everything seemed possible just then, even that.