This week's concerts are set again rising tensions between Western governments and Iran over the latter's nuclear arms program and involvement in the Iraq war. Michael Dreyer, director of Osnabr‹ck's summer festival, said there is no need for Germany and Iran to fear one another, reports the AFP.
"I hope that it will be increasingly normal to have cultural exchanges between Iran and Germany and the Western world," said Dreyer.
The Berlin Philharmonic under Herbert von Karajan gave three concerts in Iran during the mid-seventies. According to Iran's CHN, this month's events will mark the first time a Western European orchestra has performed in Iran since the 1978-79 Islamic revolution. Pre-revolutionary music was outlawed after the shah's removal; in 2005, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad banned western music from state-run television and radio broadcasts.
The AFP also reports that Dreyer, in an effort to maintain the tour's separation from politics, turned down requests by three German MPs to travel with the orchestra.
The 60-member Osnabr‹ck Symphony, assisted by six Iranian musicians and led by Hermann B‹umer, will perform Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Elgar's Cello Concerto and Brahms's Symphony No. 4. Plans to include an Iranian work and singer Sharham Nazeri fell through because of time and logistical constraints, Dreyer said. As dictated by Iranian law, females in the German orchestra will also don headscarves.
"It's a very small step in improving relations between the people in the two countries," added Dreyer.