There is a particularly close bond between the German National Youth Orchestra and the world-famous conductor Kurt Masur.
“During the course of my life, music has given me many extraordinary moments, but of all my activities in this field, none is more satisfying than working with talented young people. The German National Youth Orchestra brings together the most promising young musicians.”
Masur and the BJO first worked together in 1998, during the “Thank You, America” tour organized by the German Foundation for Musical Life. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Masur conducted the orchestra in New York, Washington, Boston, and Berlin. US President Bill Clinton and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were Honorary Patrons of the tour, which was a symbol of gratitude for the unconditional assistance provided by the United States during the Soviet blockade of Berlin. Looking back on the tour, Kurt Masur has said,
“It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. These young people are not interested in show business: they feel deeply what the music has to say. They made me young again.”
Masur also expressed his respect for the German National Youth Orchestra in the preface to the orchestra’s brochure:
In the late 1980s, Kurt Masur was instrumental in maintaining the peaceful nature of the demonstrations in Leipzig against the East German government. This was one of the reasons he and the BJO were selected to perform Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in Berlin’s Bellevue Palace on 2 July 1990, as part of German President Christian Wulff’s first summer festival. The theme of the festival was “Joy –Transformation – Solidarity: 20 Years of German Unity.” Masur once again praised the young musicians of the BJO for their proficiency and sense of musical empathy. Speaking in his capacity as Patron of the orchestra, the German President said it was one of the most pleasant responsibilities of his office.