Song request has musicians seeing red

Kassel - 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 on Monday.

Musicians 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 that he had threatened to fire anybody, but Adrienne Lochte, a spokesperson for the Hesse state culture department which subsidises the orchestra, said in Wiesbaden there had been a threat.

"We believe it is unacceptable to pressurise 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.

Musical director Roberto Paternostro, who voiced the orchestra's objections, said it was "insensitive" to ask it to play the tune.

Singing the Internationale and standing with fists 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. - Sapa-dpa

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