‘Ode to Joy - a musical gift from Germany’ reminisces milestones of Singapore-German relations - uplifting ‘Bamberg Symphony’-performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9
Singaporeans should start to get ready for an unprecedented year-end-gift from Germany meant to spread joy and hope before the new year kicks in: Singaporean conductor Kahchun Wong is poised to lead the Bamberg Symphony for a full performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The concert will be live-streamed on New Year’s Eve (31 Dec, 10pm SGT) on the
Social media-channels of media partner Straits Times
“It has been more than a year since I left home to do my best in flying our Singaporean flag abroad. While I long for the day to return home and perform in person, I am very grateful to the German Embassy, the Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise and the Straits Times for broadcasting my concert with the Bamberg Symphony on New Year’s Eve.” shares Kahchun Wong. “With these superb partners, we had put together an unprecedented Digital Ode to Joy back in 2020, and it is such a joy to reunite again with a live stream of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from Germany.”
Dr Norbert Riedel, German Ambassador to Singapore, explains: “2021 was a very special year for Singaporean-German relations. The pilot ‘Vaccinated Travel Lane’ has put Germany into the limelight like never before and created an opportunity for increased people-to-people exchange. Notwithstanding the change of government in Germany, political relations have remained warm and close and German companies continue to cast their ‘votes of confidence’ with vaccine provider Biontech being the most prominent among most recent major investments.
Our joint intention was to extend these welcome developments to the cultural sphere as well and to partner with Bamberg Symphony – a great cultural Ambassador for Bavaria. Kahchun Wong makes for a great bridgebuilder to deliver this special musical gift from Germany to Singaporeans. We are also working closely with him to make the ‘Beethoven im Garten’ series return to the Botanic Gardens, thus further nurturing the cultural scene in Singapore and support Wong’s mission to bring musical appreciation to wider audiences.”
Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law said, “Arts and culture has and will continue to play an important role in uplifting spirits, connecting communities and inspiring us to overcome challenges. As we welcome 2022, we look back and celebrate the achievements in 2021. We have witnessed the resilience, creativity and innovation of artists in Singapore and abroad, harnessing technology to bring the arts to local and international audiences. Truly embodying the concept of #SGCultureAnywhere, conductor Kahchun Wong has come a long way since winning ”The Mahler Competition“. As the first Asian Chief Conductor of Germany’s Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, we are proud of Kahchun’s achievements. I look forward to the performance as Kahchun leads the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in a joyful celebration all the way from Germany. With the Vaccinated Travel Lane between Singapore and Germany, we look forward to more opportunities for artist exchanges in the year ahead.”“
Marcus Rudolf Axt, President and CEO of Bamberg Symphony, looks forward to New Year’s Eve ”The Bamberg Symphony has given thousands of concerts worldwide across its 75-year history. In all of this time, we have only been to Singapore once. We are proud to be returning to this inspiring city state for the first time since 1986 - even if only virtually in these difficult times. May our Bamberg Sound continue to bring you joy, passion and inspiration in the new year!“
‘Ode to Joy – a musical gift from Germany’ is an initiative by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Singapore. This project is implemented in partnership with the Foundation for the Arts and Social Enterprise in Singapore, Bamberg Symphony from Germany and media partner Straits Times with all partners supporting the project financially.
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor op. 125
Soprano: Simona Šaturová
Mezzo Soprano: Marie Henriette Reinhold
Tenor: Sung Min Song
Bass: Levente Pall
Symphonischer Chor Bamberg (Symphonic Choir Bamberg/Choir Director: Ines Kaun)
There is always something new to discover in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Immediately after its premiere in 1824, reviewers already called it a”marvel“. The symphony left a lasting mark on music history, as the inclusion of human voices crossed the traditional boundaries of the genre at the time. Beethoven’s creative curiosity produced a work of art full of ideas and concepts of eternal relevance: the symphonic drama of”Per aspera ad astra“gives emphatic and convincing expression to the idea of humanity and the belief in social freedom.
At the end, the symphony becomes a grandiose cantata on the famous”Ode to Joy“by German poet Schiller, who was convinced that in order to solve”political problems in the real world, one must take an aesthetic path, because it is through beauty that one finds one’s way to freedom“– a perfect match for Beethoven's own ideological convictions.
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On ”Ode to Joy“ and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
The Ode was written in the summer of 1785 by German poet, playwright and historian Friedrich Schiller. When Beethoven set to add music to the text by Friedrich Schiller in the finale of his Symphony, the human voice was included for the first time in a symphonic work. His tune was adopted as ”Anthem of Europe“ in 1972.
Over the years, people all over the world have referred to the Ode at challenging times and as a celebration of music. Chinese students broadcast it at Tiananmen Square. It was performed on Christmas day after the fall of the Berlin Wall and at Daiku (Number Nine) concerts in Japan every year and after the 2011 tsunami.
In 2001, UNESCO included the original score of the symphony in the Register Memory of the World.
On Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827)
Ludwig van Beethoven is the most frequently performed classical composer in the world and one of the most important ambassadors for European culture. His works belong to the cultural heritage of humanity. Interest in his music has remained unabated for centuries and has become a global phenomenon. Beethoven is ubiquitous and perennially modern.
Beethoven created musical universes and seminal works that traverse the limits of human imagination in his day and left a lasting imprint on music history. His music is visionary and reflects European society in a state of upheaval. It thus far transcends its original context and point the way to modernism. His works lend a voice to an unbridled will toward social change, loftiest humanism, freedom of the arts and social utopias, all of which have laid claim to universal validit to the present day.
Wong is the first Asian Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. His international career took off after he won ”The Mahler Competition“, also known as the Olympic games of conducting, with close to 500 contestants as first Asian ever. Since then, ha has been invited to conduct renowned orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, China Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
In December 2019, Wong became the youngest Singaporean and the first artist from Singapore to be conferred the Order of Merit by the Federal President of Germany, for his dedicated service and outstanding achievements in Singaporean-German cultural relations and the advancement of German music culture abroad. In Singapore, Wong is the recipient of the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship (Public Service Commission), Young Artist Award and the Singapore Youth Award. He is a graduate of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the Hanns Eisler Musikhochschule in Berlin.
The Bamberg Symphony – Bamberger Symphoniker
An extraordinary orchestra in an extraordinary city. Bamberg without the Symphony would be a city missing something essential, something basic, like the air we breathe. Almost 10% of Bamberg's citizens subscribe to one of the five concert series and on average everybody in the city attends a concert with the orchestra once a year.
And yet the Bamberg Symphony is far more than the musical centre of the city and the entire region. They are one of Germany's most travelled orchestras: since 1946 they have been delighting audiences all over the world with their characteristically dark, round and radiant sound. With far more than 7,300 concerts in over 500 cities and 63 countries, they have also become a cultural ambassador for Bavaria and the whole of Germany as the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra and regularly tour, for example, the USA, South America, Japan and China.
The circumstances of its founding make the Bamberg Symphony a mirror of German history:
In 1946, former members of the German Philharmonic Orchestra Prague met colleagues in Bamberg who had also had to flee their homeland as a result of the war and post-war turmoil, and founded the ”Bamberg Tonkünstlerorchester“, shortly afterwards renamed the Bamberg Symphony. Starting with the Prague orchestra, its lines of tradition can be traced back to the 19th and 18th centuries. Thus the roots of the Bamberg Symphony reach back to Mahler and Mozart.
The Mahler Competition - where conducting careers take off
Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel was the winner of the revamped conducting competition of the Bamberg Symphony in 2004 who then moved on to become one of the most decorated conductors of his generation. A whole series of other winners have taken considerable careers from Bamberg and achieved significant positions. All this proves why ‘The Mahler Competition’ was immediately ranked among the most important conductor competitions internationally