This morning a friend sent me the link to the video clip below, the intro to which sums up all that I would wish to convey today.
In it, the incomparable Leonard Bernstein gushes "This music is the closest music has ever come to universality. To all kinds of people, this music is not only infinitely durable, but perhaps the closest music has ever come to universality. No composer has ever lived who speaks so directly to so many people -- to young and old, educated and ignorant, amateur and professional, sophisticated and naive... And to all these people of all classes, nationalities and racial backgrounds, this music speaks a universality of thought, of human brotherhood, freedom and love. It has a purity and directness of communication......
That innocent spirit speaks to us of hope and future and immortality. And it's for that reason that we love his music now more than ever before. In this time of world agony and hopelessness and helplessness. We love his music and need it. As despairing as we may be, we can not listen to this 9th symphony without emerging from it changed, enriched, encouraged. And to the man who could give the world so precious a gift as this, no honor can be too great and no celebration joyful enough. It's almost like celebrting the birthday of music itself."
Please note, the video is a 3-parter, each gloriously building on the last :)
Additionally [per Wikipedia]:
On December 25, 1989, Bernstein conducted Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in East Berlin's Schauspielhaus (Playhouse) as part of a celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He had conducted the same work in West Berlin the previous day. The concert was broadcast live in more than twenty countries to an estimated audience of 100 million people. For the occasion, Bernstein reworded Friedrich Schiller's text of the Ode to Joy, substituting the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy). Bernstein, in his spoken introduction, said that they had "taken the liberty" of doing this because of a "most likely phony" story, apparently believed in some quarters, that Schiller wrote an "Ode to Freedom" that is now presumed lost. Bernstein added, "I'm sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing."