“In 1999, Edward Said and myself formed the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries; countries where the open ear has been too often replaced by the unsheathed sword, to the detriment of all.
Now, over 10 years later, we have hopefully achieved an orchestra that is worthy of your ear. And one which shows that people who listen to each other, both musically and in all other ways, can achievegreater things.” – Daniel Barenboim
An all-Ludwig van Beethoven program
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 36
Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Opus 55 "Eroica"
Barenboim and his late friend Edward Said, the esteemed Palestinian scholar and social critic, created in 1999 the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra--a group of young musicians consisting of both Israelis and Arabs---drawn from Israel, Palestine,
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other Muslim countries including Egypt, Iran and Turkey.
Since 2002 the regional government of Andalusia has sponsored the group and provides a fixed base for the orchestra in Seville, a development that has led to the inclusion of young Spanish musicians in the ensemble.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proven that music can break down barriers considered insurmountable. The only political aspect that prevails is the conviction that there is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Through its work and existence the orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to the narrative of the other and at the very least accept its legitimacy, thus leading to reconciliation and understanding.
However, a few scholars have concluded that the ensemble seems driven more by young musicians eager for an opportunity to play professionally and under the baton of the charismatic and esteemed Barenboim, even suggesting that the real glue binding these young people together is ambition.
It is interesting to note that the names of the musicians are not printed in the program. Perhaps this is for security reasons, in view of the dynamics in their home environments.
Nevertheless, the orchestra has performed before enthusiastic audiences at Berlin's Philharmonic Hall, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Musikverein in Vienna, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the Hagia Eirene Museum in Istanbul, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. The orchestra is a regular participant at the BBC Proms and festivals such as Salzburg and Lucerne.
Boston Globe's Jeremy Eichler's review click here:
Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will continue their all-Beethoven concerts in New York's Carnegie Hall this week.
For Anthony Tommasini's review of the 1st of 4 performances click here: