August 30, 2007 / 3:38 PM / 12 years ago

First Western orchestra in Iran since revolution

The Tehran Symphony Orchestra performs Symphony, "Messenger of Love and Hope" at Vahdat hall in central Tehran August 15, 2007. Germany's Osnabrueck Symphony Orchestra, the first classical music orchestra from the West to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, received an enthusiastic welcome during its first of two guest performances in the capital Tehran on Wednesday night. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

TEHRAN (Reuters Life!) - The first classical music orchestra from the West to visit Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution received an enthusiastic welcome during its first of two guest performances in the capital Tehran on Wednesday night.

To loud applause, Germany’s Osnabrueck Symphony Orchestra played pieces by Beethoven, Brahms and Elgar to a sold-out Vahdat Hall in the Iranian capital, with a second performance to be held on Thursday night.

“I’m very proud that we were allowed to come and that our orchestra is the first (to visit Iran) for the last 30 years,” one of the 60-odd musicians told Reuters Television.

“It is a big honor for us,” he said.

Conforming with Iran’s strict Islamic dress code, female musicians wore the Muslim veil during the two-hour concert.

The conservative Islamic Republic usually frowns on Western culture, which it sees as decadent, but restrictions have been relaxed over the last decade and classical music is well-regarded among some sections of society.

The visit took place at a time of escalating tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs but which the Islamic state says is peaceful.

Martin Ebbing, who helped organize the event, said the wisdom of visiting Iran had been debated both inside and outside the orchestra in Germany but that it was important to open a dialogue with the people of Iran.

“It was a very warm welcoming reception,” he said about Wednesday’s performance in the 850-capacity hall. “It was completely sold out.”

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