German Orchestra to Perform in Iran

A02207015.jpgThis week, the Osnabrück Symphony will be the first western classical ensemble to perform in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. German organizers hope the event will contribute to inter-cultural understanding. The 60-member Osnabrück Symphony has arrived in Tehran and is preparing to go on stage on Wednesday and Thursday in the Iranian capital. Conductor Hermann B?umer will lead the musicians in playing works by Beethoven, Brahms and Elgar.

The concert will be a rare occasion, as no other western orchestra of this size has played in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Last year, Osnabrück hosted the Tehran Symphony Orchestra, who performed to a packed audience in the western German city. The exchange is part of Osnabrück’s Orient Festival.

In view of the ongoing political tensions between Iran and the West, the orchestra’s concerts were aimed at improving inter-cultural dialogue, said the festival’s director Michael Dreyer.

“It is important to me that this is not a one-time event, but rather the beginning of a long-term cultural cooperation,” Dreyer said. Six Iranian musicians will support the German orchestra in this week’s concerts, he said.

“I hope that such cultural exchange projects will soon become normality, even between the West and the Islamic world,” Dreyer said. He told reporters in Tehran that the exchange hoped to “show to both countries that there are lots of similarities between us and no reason to fear each other.”

Conductor B?umer said music was the only language everybody in the world could speak and understand.

“I’m sure that making music together will change things,” B?umer said in Tehran. “Every human being can be reached by music.”

Dreyer visited Tehran several times over the past year in order to prepare the concerts. The trip has been fully coordinated with Iran’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.

“It was all but a mission impossible,” Dreyer said in an interview with German news agency DPA prior to his departure. “We only managed it because high-ranking clerical and political Iranians lobbied for it.”

The orchestra’s directors said the visit was aimed purely at cultural understanding, and not politics. Dreyer said he had rejected a request by three German MPs to join the tour in order to keep the trip focused on music and not politics.

The concerts are expected to draw large crowds.

Karajan conducted the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years prior to the Islamic Revolution, foreign orchestras performed regularly in Iran, including the Berlin Philharmonic and its legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan. But the Tehran orchestra was dissolved following the revolution.

Only in the past decade have attempts been made to revive classical music in Iran. Tehran’s symphony orchestra gives regular concerts, mixing western classics with compositions by Iranian composers.

The festival is financed by various cultural organizations in Osnabrück, as well as the German Foreign Office. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is the patron of the event.

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