Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finding Friends in the Tiergarten


     On our final day in Berlin, during a cycle in the Tiergarten, we came upon a placid gold fish pond that stretched away from our path toward a white marble monument shining in the bright morning sun. As we approached, Diane said, “That looks like Mozart and Haydn.” Her eye proved as good as her ear; moreover, Beethoven was on the other side.
     There is much more impressive statuary in Berlin than this memorial to the three German musical geniuses. The Greek and Roman sculptures in the Pergamon Museum alone are far superior. The 33-foot-high tribute has even been dismissed as a “three-man furnace,” for its resemblance to the room-high, richly decorated tiled stoves that heated many Berlin homes around 1904, the year the memorial was erected.
     None of this mattered. Here was a monument paying homage to not one but three of the giants, before whose gleaming half-figures we stood in gratitude and awe, recalling the strains of their music as from a bottomless spring. 
     Both the pond and the small meadow on the other side of the memorial lay in silence, as if the small audience lazing on the grass or sitting on nearby benches was waiting patiently for a concert to begin: the overture to The Marriage of Figaro, maybe, followed by the “Drumroll” and, fittingly, the “Pastoral.”


     By the end of World War II, the Tiergarten was a wasteland, the memorial shattered. Several parts were missing, including masks, musical instruments and flower pendants that had adorned the marble work. Mozart’s nose, too, had disappeared. Repairs were made at the time, but they were inadequate and the statue further deteriorated over the years.
     The decision to build a railroad tunnel beneath the Tiergarten in the nineties finally rescued the monument. Because of the construction, it was dismantled; when the tunnel was finished and the monument grounds restored, a complete renovation went forward.
     Using historical photographs and postcards, craftsmen slowly reconstructed the many missing pieces, then carefully cleaned the marble and gave it a graffiti-proof coating. But they purposely took care not to hide the bullet holes that pock Haydn and other parts of the memorial, lasting evidence of the Battle of Berlin that ended the war 66 years ago.
     Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn gave the world more than 1,200 works, dozens upon dozens of them masterpieces. I tried to imagine their astonishment had they been present a few weeks back at a party in Vienna where the host gave Diane a flash drive that contained Mozart’s entire catalogue, plus all 104 Haydn symphonies.
     As if on cue, “Ode to Joy” rang out on a carillon somewhere beyond the trees. The exuberant bells left me wishing I could assure Beethoven that there was, incredibly, plenty of room left on the pinky-length memory stick for the Ninth Symphony, and the rest of his oeuvre as well. 

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