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
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!
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).
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
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
David R Dunsmore