Berlin, gleaming gold in the autumn evening sunshine - Daniel Barenboim Beethoven Symphony no 9 in the open air, on the Unter Den Linden, part of the Staatsoper für Alle festival, a gala marking the re-opening of the Staatsoper building after seven years’ renovation and improvements. Thousands of people (close to 10,000?) packed in the length of the boulevard and perhaps in the squares beyond, all paying rapt attention to a superb performance. Barenboim conducted the Staatsoper Orchestra with René Pape, Burkhard Fritz, Diana Damrau and Okka von der Damerau. Barenboim conducted stylishly, the orchestra, looking relaxed, responding with verve. As always, excellence sells itself ! A happy crowd, kids and old folk, there for the music, looking slightly embarrassed when the cameras panned on them. This is what "music education" should be - no silly gimmicks. Sadly, I don't think this could be done in the UK.
How astonished Beethoven would have been. "Alle Menschen werden Bruder,Wo den sanfter Flugel weilt". Hundreds of thousands listening in, all over the world, wonderful music, presented without hype.This was modern technology used to maximum advantage without overkill. Even the filming was good - the cameras picked up on tiny details like the elderly couple resting against each other, and the handshake between two of the singers at the very end.
And of course, Berlin itself. Once a provincial backwater, transformed in the Age of Enlightenment by Frederick the Great and his ancestors and successors, who are laid to rest in the Cathedral crypt in elegant but simple tombs : "the Prussian spirit" with its values of integrity, piety and dedication. At the other end of the Unter den Linden, the Brandenburger Tor, with its grand columns and Quadriga above. The great grandson of the architect, a relative of Henning von Treskow who was executed by the Nazis, observed wryly that the horses in the statue were placed so their metaphorical droppings would land on the heads of rulers who lost touch with reality. And so the Quadriga has witnessed the comings and goings of despots of all kinds. Not far away, either, the university named after Alexander von Humboldt who pioneered modern geography and natural science, and the Museuminsel with its amazing collections: relics from Egypt and Assyria through to paintings of the Romantic era, all part of an audacious vision of a cosmopolitan world. Had Victoria not married Albert, where would London be? The livestream will be rebroadcast soon on arte.tv for 30 days.