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Coalition builds to celebrate 20th anniversary of Berlin Wall's fall

By Catherine Hickley
Sunday, November 8, 2009

BERLIN -- Daniel Barenboim, who was in town the night the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, is joining Bon Jovi, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa and Hillary Clinton to celebrate the 20th anniversary.

The 5 million euro ($7.4 million) party opens at 7 p.m. Monday, with Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate. The program comprises an excerpt from Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin," Arnold Schoenberg's "A Survivor From Warsaw," the fourth movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and a piece by the composer Friedrich Goldmann.

The fall of the wall "has changed so much of Europe for the better," Barenboim said in an interview at the Berlin Staatsoper, where he is chief conductor. "It has given so many thousands, probably millions of people, a better existence."

About 1,000 giant dominos will topple along the former path of the wall on Monday, the night when, 20 years ago, bewildered guards allowed streams of East Germans through the most heavily fortified border in the world. Five months later, East Germany held its first democratic election and within a year, East and West were reunified.

The dominos, 2.5 meters high, have been illustrated by schoolchildren and students under the patronage of political leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel and with the help of artists. Stretching 1.5 kilometers from Potsdamer Platz to the Reichstag, the parliament building, they represent "the chain reaction that the fall of the wall sparked off in Europe and the world," according to a statement by the organizers.

On that fateful day in 1989, "I was recording a Mozart opera, 'Così Fan Tutte,' with the Berlin Philharmonic," Barenboim recalled. "On the Friday morning, we had a session, and the orchestra was in great agitation. They wanted to do a concert for the inhabitants of East Berlin."

Barenboim described people lining up all morning for tickets. Though the Nov. 12 concert was free, only those holding an East German identity card were given tickets.

"For most of them, it was the first time hearing the Berlin Philharmonic, and the first time in the Philharmonie" concert hall, Barenboim said. "It was wonderful."

For the anniversary Fest der Freiheit (Freedom Festival), the band Bon Jovi will perform its current single, "We Weren't Born to Follow," on an outdoor stage at the Brandenburg Gate, the backdrop for scenes of jubilation and reconciliation as Germans from East and West scaled the wall 20 years ago.

Paul van Dyk, an electronic dance-music DJ and producer who left East Germany shortly before the fall of the wall, is composing a hymn called "We Are One" to be performed at the end of the concert. As the last domino falls, a fireworks display will begin.

As well as Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speakers will include U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as representatives of the four powers that occupied Germany after World War II. Gorbachev and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, West German foreign minister in 1989, also will speak.

-- Bloomberg

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