The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was the brainchild of Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian-born writer Edward Said, and is a unique musical collaboration dedicated to further the cause of a peaceful co-existence in the Middle East.
A chance meeting between Barenboim and Said in a London hotel led to an intense friendship between two creative spirits who should have been poles apart politically. The orchestra was born out of their aspirations for closer Israeli/Palestinian co-operation and contains the finest young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from both sides of the divide.
The CD documents the orchestra’s August 2005 concert in the Palestinian Territory in the city of Ramallah, and includes repertoire for which Barenboim is celebrated – Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 5’, Mozart’s ‘Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major’ and Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ (from Enigma Variations). The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s appearance at the 2005 Proms, including a performance of the Mozart, was acclaimed as played by “an orchestra on fire with passion and purpose” in The Times.
Barenboim’s relationship with Elgar’s music was forged during his seminal recordings with Jacqueline du Pré during the 1960s, and his highly regarded complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies was reissued by Warner Classics during 2004.
The CD is the ‘sequel’ to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, released earlier in 2005.
The CD involves musicians – possibly the only people involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict who know people ‘from the other side’ – making music together under the baton of a legendary conductor. Their playing attains to levels normally only achieved by the leading orchestras of the world – an unheralded coming together of musical and humanitarian concerns.