“When Daniel Barenboim brought his orchestra into Ramallah, it captured the imagination of the world… Barenboim’s humanitarian commitment is beyond dispute.” (The Guardian, August 2005)
"This CD documents a historical landmark in the development of musical and human relations in the Middle East. It was an unforgettable evening for all who participated, listened and watched. Making this event possible, first of all, showed the great courage and dedication of each and every young musician in the orchestra regardless of their origin; courage to play with and listen to the other. In addition, it represented the result of great imagination and goodwill of many officials in all the countries involved in this vast organisational puzzle. For this I wish to thank the Junta de Andalucía for its moral and financial support, and the Spanish government for having the vision to issue diplomatic passports for all concerned, which made the impossible merely impossibly difficult.” (Daniel Barenboim)
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 this year.
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.
“This not just good considering, but outstanding on every level, remarkable for any orchestra of young or not-so-young musicians.” (‘Editor’s Choice’, Gramophone, September 2005)
“Barenboim infects the whole dramatic piece with a living urgency, shaping the episodes with a storyteller’s lilt.”(The Times, 29th July 2005)
“Although a mere few years old, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra already displays seasoned musicianship: it’s a venture that for many reasons should never be allowed to lapse.” (The Independent, 19th July 2005)
“…this is a genuinely fine orchestra in its own right… Barenboim generates performances of thrilling excitement.” (Classic FM, October 2005)