Daniel Barenboim Conducts
"If conflicts are one day to be solved," says the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, "it will only be by contact between the warring parties." The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is living proof that this is a viable goal and that music can provide the ideal environment for its attainment. In 1998, Barenboim and his friend, the late Palestinian writer and scholar Edward Said, founded a workshop for young Israeli and Arab musicians; its aim was to foster the participants' musical development and to bridge national, cultural and political differences through dialogue, communal living and shared music-making. Named after a collection of poems by Goethe, the German writer and statesman, the workshop was inaugurated at his birthplace, Weimar, in 1999, and now meets every summer in Andalusia for several weeks of intensive work, joined by a sizeable number of local musicians. The group has performed in Western Europe, the Americas, Morocco, and most recently in Ramallah.
This debut CD, recorded live, proves that it can bear comparison with veteran orchestras, even in familiar repertory staples. Combining technical polish and security, tonal beauty and transparency with youthful expressiveness, passion and exuberance, the players bring out Tchaikovsky's ardent romanticism, Verdi's dramatic somberness, Sibelius' spooky mystery. Much of the credit must go to Barenboim for melding this motley crew into a musically and interpersonally unified group and for inspiring such a fine, concentrated performance through his leadership, personality and commitment. The recording includes a DVD of the concert, the workshop, and a conversation between Said and Barenboim. --Edith Eisler
Top customer reviews
The setting of Victoria Hall in Geneva is ideal, together with the late Edward Said what you see and hear is their creation, I feel that this orchestra is on the road to greatness. Well worth watching and great camera work.
I plan to invite all the young people I know to come and watch this DVD in the coming days. It is a marvel. It can heal the world.
And it's not simply truly great performances of two masterpieces of western music that account for its wonder, it is the opportunity to watch the love, the energy, that these young Jews and Arabs bring to their music-making. (A kind of footnote: if you have lost patience with filmed orchestral performances on account of all the clichéd wandering on cue around the players, please give this filmed experience a chance: there is great BEAUTY to be found as the skillful cine-photographers and editors bring to our sharp attention one after another of the players playing as though life itself depended on what they are all engaged in.)
If I had the means to do so, I would give this DVD to every household in the world. How it is that this fabulous orchestra has not been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize is one great mystery. If only...
Kudos as well to Barenboim who recently snubbed an Israeli reporter for trying to interview him while she was in uniform. It certainly took chutzpah and courage to call the fascist canard for what it was. Barenboim is no stranger to refusing to cowtow to an intractable mindset, and on the heels of this release it affirms the philosophical point that peace does not exist in a vacuum, and therefore you can not create beauty amid the trappings of war. There is a lesson here for the Americans as well, but it's not likely to be heard over the din of a country-western Nero fiddling stupidly with the future of the planet.
In any case, if you care about classical music or if you just care about Israelis and Arabs finding a way out of the mess, this is required listening. An essential disc by any standard.
Libby and Len Traubman
San Mateo, CA
Very impresive execution, good sound, what Barenboin has done putting together this orchestra gives us a very strong positive message towards world peace, working with young talents from the Middle East. Greetings from Costa Rica.