KASSEL, Germany (dpa) ó A German orchestra was threatened with dismissal after instrumentalists mutinied over having to play the Communist anthem, "The Internationale," for an audience of blue-collar car-assembly workers, state officials said Monday.
Musicians [of the Staatsorchester Kassel who were] born in communist East Germany said the tune gave them unpleasant memories. So it was replaced by another stirring revolutionary tune, the "Marseillaise," in Monday's curtain-raiser concert before a Volkswagen workers' meeting.
Christoph Nix, director general of the Kassel Staatstheater, denied he had offered to fire anybody, but Adrienne Lochte, a spokeswoman for the Hesse state culture department which subsidizes the orchestra, said in Wiesbaden there had been a threat.
"We believe it is unacceptable to pressurize in this way orchestra members who suffered under Communism," she said. Nix said the players complained directly to the ministry and not to him after he said their protest was infantile. Nix said the Volkswagen works council had asked for "The Internationale" to be played, but had left the final programme up to him.
Music director Roberto Paternostro, who voiced the orchestra's objections, said it was "insensitive" to ask it to play the tune at the paid appearance in the car plant 160 kilometres north of Kassel.
Singing "The Internationale" standing with fist clenched was a bonding experience at Communist gatherings around the world for decades. It was the Soviet national anthem before 1944. The melody was composed in 1888 by Pierre Degeyter.
The "Marseillaise" was composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792 and is the French national anthem.
Copyright 2004 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH