Magic Moments of Music: Berlin Wall Concert

A documentary by Eric Schulz — With Daniel Barenboim and the Berliner Philharmoniker

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Berliner Philharmoniker

Daniel Barenboim — Conductor


Rudolf Watzel — Double bassist

Alexander Wedow — Cellist

Bernhard Forck — Violinist

Walter Momper — Mayor of Berlin, 1989 - 1991

Ingrid Schiemann — Former resident of East Berlin

Cornelia Olbertz — Former resident of East Berlin

Michael Dörr — Former resident of East Berlin

Program notes

“The Berlin Wall Concert may very well be the most important concert in the history of our orchestra.” – Rudolf Watzel, Berliner Philharmoniker double bassist

Between the beginning and end of construction on the Berlin Philharmonie, from 1960 to 1963, a wall was built to cut the German capital in two. Though it stood just a few hundred meters from the border between East and West Berlin, the Philharmonie and all the glorious music performed within its walls remained off limits to those in the city's eastern half—until the Berlin Wall finally fell on November 9, 1989.

Three days later, Daniel Barenboim led the Berliner Philharmoniker in a free concert exclusively for residents of the former East Berlin, who simply had to show an ID card to get in. It was the first time in the West for many, who began lining up at 4 AM to hear Barenboim perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and the orchestra’s flawless rendition of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. The choice was “purely practical,” explained Barenboim in 2009 (they’d been recording the work in Berlin when the wall fall), but it is hard to imagine a more fitting choice for the moment: with the triumphant heroism of the first and fourth movements, and the heart-rending poignancy of the second, it is easy to see why there were so few dry eyes in the house.

This documentary, thirty years on from the historic event, features deeply moving footage of the concert, as well as remembrances by Barenboim, members of the Berliner Philharmoniker, concert attendees, and the first mayor of a unified Berlin, Walter Momper.

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