The New York Philharmonic as Ambassadors of Peace


The New York Philharmonic give three concerts on Usedom near the Polish border. Their performances are overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.

The island of Usedom will be the European residence of the New York Philharmonic in 2022

For the first time since the pandemic began, the New York Philharmonic is traveling abroad. They will perform on three evenings in May as part of the Usedom Music Festival on the Baltic Sea island. The renowned orchestra is complemented by three other stars of the classical music scene: the Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and the American baritone Thomas Hampson.

On this journey, the orchestra sees itself as a messenger of peace. The orchestra management justifies this with the place where it occurs: The concerts will take place in the turbine hall of the Peenemünde factory, which was built in 1936 on Usedom.

The New York Philharmonic at a performance in 2021 with their chief conductor Jaap van Zweden

During the Nazi regime, Peenemünde was an army research facility in which weapons of mass destruction  were developed. Thousands of people were forced to work in the halls and were murdered. 

After the pandemic: orchestras travel again

Today, the Peenemünde factory houses a concert hall with over 1200 seats, in which the Peenemünde concerts have been taking place since 2002 as part of the Usedom Music Festival. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the concert series, the New York Philharmonic will be performing under the baton of Dutch chief conductor Jaap van Zweden. Musicians of the Baltic Sea Orchestra will play together with the New Yorkers.

Before the corona pandemic, orchestras and stars of classical music regularly traveled around the world. The performance of the New Yorker in Germany thus represents a return of US orchestras to classical normality to a certain extent.

The Dutchman Jaap van Zweden has been conducting the New York Philharmonic since 2018

European orchestras have been traveling abroad again for a few months. Last season, the Berlin Philharmonic performed in Paris, Aarhus and Zagreb, among other places. Their “European Concert”, which was supposed to take place in Odessa in the Ukraine at the beginning of May, had to be relocated to Liepāja in Latvia due to the Russian war of aggression.

The performances of the New York Philharmonic on Usedom are also overshadowed by the war in Ukraine. At an event in New York, chief conductor Jaap van Zweden explained: “To go to a place like this at a moment in history that we are living through with this terrible war, makes us realize how lucky we were for such a long time without all these problems.”

Anne-Sophie Mutter: “Convinced of the reconciling power of music”

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Anne-Sophie Mutter – The World Violinist

Anne-Sophie Mutter will play André Previn's violin concerto “Anne-Sophie” during the Saturday concert, which is dedicated to her. “André had to flee Nazi persecution with his Jewish family in 1938, leaving everything behind in Germany,” said his mother in a greeting to the Usedom Festival. “I think it would have made him very happy if he could have heard his violin concerto in the former turbine hall of the Peenemünde power plant. Because he too – like me – was convinced of the reconciling power of music.”

The performances of the New York Philharmonic in May (May 20 – 24) are a special event of the Usedom Music Festival. In September, the regular three-week festival will bring together musicians from all ten Baltic states: Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Usedom is just a few kilometers from the Polish border removed. The renowned, international Baltic Sea Philharmonic Orchestra emerged from the Usedom music festival.

Many star conductors have taken part in the renowned music festival since it was founded, including Kurt Masur, Christoph von Dohnányi, Neeme Jarvi, Paavo Jarvi and Kristjan Jarvi. Other prominent guests in the past have included the Polish trade union leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Wałęsa, Queen Silvia of Sweden and the former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, under whom the Iron Curtain fell. This year's festival focus is music from Estonia. The opening concert in September will be played by the Baltic Sea Philharmonic.