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Dear Friends,

The Mozart symphonies I mentioned in my letter last week were performed this week in the chamber music theater of Berlin Philharmonic Hall. The Potsdam Chamber Academy, conducted by Antonello Manacorda, performed Symphonies 39, 40, and 41. It felt at times like I was watching dance, as musicians swayed and sounds swelled. The audience exploded with cheers and shouts of “Danke!” at the end. Orchestra members hugged each other across the stage. Thrilling Mozart like I’ve never experienced.

The note I shared last week included a link to a Mozart recording by Jeanette Sorrell. She’s a devotee of chamber music who’s made a name as a conductor after bruising beginnings. As a student, she was denied entry to a Julliard conducting class on the grounds that orchestras were not ready to be led by a woman. She was dismissed as a candidate for the position of assistant conductor with the Cleveland Symphony on the grounds that audiences would never accept a woman on the podium.

Sorrell started “Apollo’s Fire” and has developed a reputation for Baroque and classical with tremendous flair. Musicians and audiences respond to her musical integrity and passionate style. Here’s (Opens in a new window) a picture why.


By planes, trains, and automobiles today, I’m on my way from Berlin to Kyiv — via Vienna, Krakow, Przemyśl, and Lviv. We walk across the border from Poland. By Monday night, colleagues and I will have met with foreign ministry and defense officials, cultural figures, MPs — including the chairman of the Odesa Regional Council — and civil society leaders. On Monday morning, we’ll be at the bureau of my former company, RFE/RL (I’m a member of the board).

From Kyiv, we’ll share impressions by Zoom this Monday, June 20, at 10 am ET.

American Purpose

  • We’re committed to Ukraine. We see political, strategic, moral, and humanitarian issues at stake. Accompanying me to Ukraine are Veronika Velch, Iulia Joja, and Dalibor Rohac. Together with Giselle Donnelly, Iulia and Dalibor cohost the AEI podcast, “Eastern Front.” I’ve asked Giselle to moderate our discussion on Monday.

  • We’re concerned about the regional impact of Russia’s war. On Wednesday of next week (June 22), American Purpose will cohost a roundtable      conference in Prague with Michael Žantovský and the Václav Havel Library.

  • We’re interested in the debate about democracy in U.S. foreign policy. Peter Slezkine has written about this in Foreign Affairs. The Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies has invited me to discuss Peter’s article with Peter and Anatol Lieven on June 30 at 11 am ET. Our friend Michael Kimmage will moderate.

  • We’re committed to alliances. Gary Schmitt has written a piece on NATO that will appear at the time of the NATO summit at the end of the month. Carla Robbins is writing on the twin challenge of Russia and China with a focus on thorny issues of politics and resources.

  • We’re interested in theory and philosophy as they pertain to today’s arguments over liberalism. Luke Sheehan has an upcoming essay on the      work of sociologist Robert Nisbet (1913-96). Nisbet wrestled with      issues of individualism and community.

  • We value history. Bill Galston will deliver dinner remarks on George      Washington and the spirit of service and self-sacrifice at the end of this month at the wonderful annual conference organized by our friend João Espada. We’ll publish Bill’s remarks in July.

American Purpose has passed the 18-month mark. We’ve just launched a new membership program. Please share this opportunity with friends — and I hope you’ll consider joining (Opens in a new window). Your support is important to us!

Music and Society

The Berlin Philharmonic started in 1882, when 50 musicians left another ensemble in a labor dispute. It’s always been a laboratory of social change.

From its beginnings the orchestra was self-governing. Players sit on a range of committees involving all sorts of oversight, right down to the hire of their conductor.

In 1982 Herbert von Karajan hired, against the will of the orchestra, clarinetist Sabine Myer. Members argued that the style and sound of the gifted young soloist would not blend. Others including Karajan — who himself for years had opposed having women in his orchestra — were convinced gender played a role. The dispute led to von Karajan’s departure.

The first chair violinist of the Cologne Symphony Orchestra once told me of the Berlin Phil, “That’s where the Gods play.” The standards are impossibly high. The sound can be sensational. Italian conductor Claudio Abbado once said the orchestra could make a soft passage sound like falling snow.

Here’s (Opens in a new window) Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki leading a perfect performance of Sibelius with the Berlin Phil.

Respect. More from Kyiv.



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