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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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The Ramallah Concert - West Eastern Divan Orchestra - Daniel Barenboim
DVD 1: Knowledge is the beginning - a film produced and directed by Paul Smaczny [94:00]
DVD 2: The Ramallah Concert - West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim [112:00]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Sinfonia Concertante in E flat major for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn, KAnh.9 (297b)
Mohamed Saleh (oboe); Kinan Azmeh (clarinet); Mor Biron (bassoon); Sharon Polyak (horn)
Speeches by Nabeel Hath and Mustafa Barghouti.
Ludwig Van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67
Speeches by Miriam Said and Daniel Barenboim.
Encore Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Nimrod from Enigma Variations Op. 36
West Eastern Divan Orchestra - Daniel Barenboim
Recorded "live" at the Cultural Palace, Ramallah, 21 August 2005 and includes an 18 minute documentary directed by Ayellet Hallerr.
Concert produced by Paul Smaczny
Concert Director: Michael Beyer
Documentary Director: Ayellet Heller
Principal Photography: Nyika Jansco
Picture format: NTSC/Colour/16.9
Sound formats: PCM Stereo. DTS 5.1 surround. DOLBY digital 5.1
Region 2-5 encoding. PAL
Menu language English, German, French, Spanish and Arabic (for Knowledge Is The Beginning)
WARNER VISION DVD VIDEO 2564 62792-2 [94:00 + 112:00]

On August 21, 2005 during the week of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a historic concert took place given by The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. This Orchestra was the product of a remarkable friendship between the renowned Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian-born writer Edward Said. It is a unique musical collaboration dedicated to further the cause of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. Barenboim makes it clear that music cannot bring about peace but can bring about a greater understanding between young people of different cultures. The orchestra is a creation of Barenboim and aims for closer Israeli/Palestinian co-operation. It contains the finest young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from both sides of the divide and includes Israelis, Palestinians, Libyans, Syrians and some young people from Spain.

This new DVD includes repertoire for which Barenboim is renowned: Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 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 quite wonderful and I can say my 82 year old mother thought it the best Prom she’d ever seen!

Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

A quite wonderful performance of a marvellous piece. There are people around who question that the work IS Mozart; well I’m not one of them. This is superlative and life-affirming music-making. The four soloists who come from the orchestra have wonderful interplay under the encouragement of Barenboim who is one of the great Mozartians. After the exciting first movement and lovely Andante we have a brilliant rendition of the finale. All well filmed with moving shots of the entranced audience; their appreciation at the end is the mark of an excellent version which would stand up equally well simply as a CD.

Beethoven Fifth Symphony

After an explosive start I’m struck by the speed of the first movement – no hanging about here. The film is excellent in bringing home the excitement of Beethoven’s music. The opening chord is often seen as fate knocking on the door - how appropriate here in Ramallah. The orchestra playing their heart out under inspired conducting and the audience are in awe of what is happening. Slight roughness at times reminds us of the fact that this work was written during the Napoleonic wars; here is music played by battle instruments. A supreme and moving slow movement again highlights the woodwind and brass. Barenboim, as ever, is great at drawing out the colours of the orchestra. The allegro brings out the military background to the music juxtaposed with the underlying striving for humanity. The moments before the crescendo are spellbinding. The allegro is so inspiring that it is difficult to stop standing and applauding as it storms to a glorious finale. This is a Beethoven 5th on par with Tennstedt (Proms: 30 August 1990 on BBC Legends 41582).

Elgar Nimrod

After moving speeches we have Nimrod which is evocative especially in view of Barenboim’s association with Elgar. This is a very good rendition. I would love to hear the whole work. A sad but affirming finale from a great humanitarian.

As well as the concert there is a striking documentary filmed over six years which shows what a wonderful project this is. I am really impressed by Barenboim’s enthusiasm and the efforts he has made as a Jew.

The sound when played through competent stereo equipment is terrific as is the picture. This is a wonderful DVD of an historic and momentous event. Moreover it is not just to play once. I will turn to it whenever I want to be inspired and reminded of the infinite power of music.

As one of the orchestra says "So exciting it is hard not to cry."

David R Dunsmore

 

 



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