Friday, November 09, 2007

Festival of light marks collapse of communism


Today, November 9, is the Hindu festival of Diwali. This is the "Festival of Light," when lamps are used to signify the victory of good over evil. At midnight on November 9 1989 good was victorious over evil in Europe, and East Germany's communist rulers opened the gates along the Berlin Wall after hundreds of people converged on crossing points.

The header photo was taken by me outside the Nicolai Church in Leipzig. It was here that a candle-lit vigil on October 9 1989 precipitated Die Wende. This was the peaceful revolution that brought down the East German communist regime, breached the Berlin Wall and redrew the political map of Europe. The Nicolai Church was also the venue for another great triumph of good over evil, the first performance of Bach's St John Passion in 1723.

Now playing - Olivier Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony (Chailly, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Decca 4366262). Light was important to Messiaen (left), and he described his Catholic faith as a 'theological rainbow'. His music was influenced by Hindu rhythms, and the title of the epic, and erotic, Turangalîla Symphony is a compound of two Sanskrit words. These can be broadly translated as 'rhythms of life and love'. Elsewhere David Derrick has written 'conscious musical syntheses of East and West tend to fail'. But Turangalîla certainly doesn't fail, and that's because Messiaen truly defined the over-used word genius.

More on Wende and Nicolai Church here, and a world exclusive picture of the Berlin Wall here. See post-Wende Berlin here.
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