Roaring applause and multiple standing ovations saluted the historic Houston debut of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the direction of notable maestro Riccardo Chailly. The orchestra, one of the oldest classical ensembles in the world, kicked off an American concert tour at Jones Hall Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The all-Mendelssohn playbill — a thought-provoking choice as the Romantic composer was born into a distinguished Jewish family, lived in Berlin, died in Leipzig and was a music director of this German orchestra — included the Symphony No. 5 and the gorgeous Violin Concerto, followed by two encores, the Intermezzo and Wedding March from the incidental music to A Midsummer Night's Dream.
A fragment of the Berlin Wall served as evidence of the physicality of the mammoth barrier.
Hosted by the Houston Symphony, the musical soirée of which former President George H. W. Bush and Secretary James A. Baker III served as honorary chairs included a welcome press conference with Mayor Annise Parker, Leipzig Vice Mayor Andreas Müller, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra executive director Andreas Schultz, president of the Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association Wolfgang Schmidt and German Consul General Ricarda Redeker.
A fragment of the Berlin Wall served as evidence of the physicality of the mammoth barrier that fenced in like-minded people, separating the country by only a handful of feet.
Alongside a coterie of local and international politicos, President Bush and wife Barbara were joined by Secretary of State James Baker's wife, Susan Baker, prior to the performance. The post-concert reception honored Wolfgang Schmidt and Angelika Schmidt with the Ehrennadel der Stadt Leipzig (Honor Pin of the City of Leipzig), a decoration that lauds special merits to the City of Leipzig.
In attendance were Margaret Alkek Williams and Jim Daniel, Joanne Herring, Helen and Jim Shaffe, Minnette Boesel, Robin Angly, Dr. Gary L. Hollingsworth, Bill Caudill, Milton Townsend, Jackson Hicks, Randy Powers, Antoine Plante, Jacqueline and Charles Bertrand, John Turner and Jerry Fischer.