From January 30 through February 3, acclaimed conductor Daniel Barenboim leads a complete Beethoven symphony cycle over four concerts at Carnegie Hall, performed by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra—the ensemble that he co-founded, comprising musicians from Israel and other Arab countries. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra last appeared in New York at Carnegie Hall in 2006. Mr. Barenboim previously conducted cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos at Carnegie Hall in 2000 with the Staatskapelle Berlin.
In 1999, Mr. Barenboim—together with the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said—created a workshop for young musicians from countries throughout the Middle East, seeking to enable intercultural dialogue and creating an opportunity to collaborate on a matter of common interest: music making at the highest level. Mr. Barenboim and Mr. Said named the orchestra and workshop after German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems entitled West-Eastern Divan, which they considered to be a central work for the evolution of the concept of world culture.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s first sessions took place in Weimar, Germany (1999 and 2000), and Chicago (2001). In 2002, the workshop found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it is generously supported by the regional government of Andalusia. An equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians today form the base of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, together with a group of Spanish musicians. They meet each summer in Seville for a workshop, where rehearsals are complemented by lectures and discussions, then followed by an international concert tour. Since its creation, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has appeared in most European countries, the Americas, and the Middle East, and regularly performs at prestigious music festivals. In August 2003, the orchestra performed in an Arab country for the first time with a concert in Rabat, Morocco; in 2005, it gave its debut performance in the Middle East with a concert in Ramallah, Palestine, broadcast live by ARTE.
The orchestra has released a number of highly praised CDs and DVDs on the Warner Classics and EuroArts labels. A documentary about the orchestra, knowledge is the beginning, has won several international awards, among them an International Emmy in 2006.