“Although their peoples are engaged in violent struggle, these musicians have the courage to come together to make music and show the world that collaboration and harmony are possible. Even though their opinions and loyalties may differ greatly, their musical voices speak out unanimously against violence … This orchestra is a source of inspiration and a model for the Middle East and the rest of the world.”
— Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – the much-lauded ensemble of young Arab and Israeli musicians that Barenboim co-founded in 1999 with the late Palestinian-born literary scholar Edward Said – embark on an eight-city European tour this summer as part of their multi-year Beethoven for All project, which seeks to take the composer’s message of common humanity to audiences around the world. Highlights of the tour include a concert at Castel Gandolfo at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI (July 11), a performance in the palace gardens at Versailles (July 13), concerts at Berlin’s Waldbühne (July 29) and the Salzburg Festival (August 2 & 3), and an eight-day residency from July 20 to 27 at the BBC Proms as part of the London 2012 Festival, the cultural celebrations of the Olympic Games.
To coincide with the tour, Daniel Barenboim and Decca are presenting an ambitious multi-album Beethoven for All recording project, which includes complete cycles of the composer’s symphonies with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the piano concertos with the Staatskapelle Berlin, and the piano sonatas (watch a trailer here). When Decca’s Beethoven for All two-disc highlight set and five-disc symphony set were released in the U.S. two weeks ago, they debuted at number one and number three respectively on Billboard’s traditional classical chart. Individual recordings of each of the nine symphonies have also been mastered especially for iTunes, and are now available.
Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s summer tour kicks off on July 7 with an all-Boulez chamber concert at Berlin’s Schiller Theater. On July 10, they make their Munich debut in the Bavarian capital’s Philharmonie. At the personal invitation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Divan will play for the pontiff at Castel Gandolfo, the Holy Father’s summer residence in Lazio, Italy (July 11). The tour continues in Versailles (July 13), Geneva (Victoria Hall, July 15), and in Seville (Teatro de la Maestranza, July 18).
A major highlight of the 2012 Beethoven for All tour will be an eight-day residency at the BBC Proms from July 20 to 27. In addition to the nine Beethoven symphonies, the concerts will also feature works by French composer Pierre Boulez, one of the most influential figures in contemporary music for the past 60 years and a close friend of Barenboim. The first non-BBC orchestra to be in residence at this beloved British summer festival, the Divan will give its final Proms concert on July 27, when Barenboim leads it in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a fitting work, with its “Ode to Joy” celebration of shared humanity, to be played on the opening day of London’s 2012 Olympic Games. The concert promises to bring new vitality and meaning to the kindred missions of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Olympic Games. The performance starts at 6:30pm BST, with the opening ceremony beginning at 9:00pm BST. The concert will be broadcast live on the web and on BBC Radio 3 with a recorded television broadcast on BBC Two the next day (July 28).
After the Proms residency, Barenboim and the Divan return to Berlin for a July 29 concert at the Waldbühne that will include the Third (“Eroica”) and Fifth Symphonies. The summer tour comes to a close with an evening at Salzburg’s Festspielhaus (August 2) and a program of chamber music by Martinu, Janácek, and Dvorák in the Austrian city’s Mozarteum (August 3).
Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan reunite to continue their Beethoven for All project in January and February 2013, when they return to the United States for the first time since their Carnegie Hall debut in 2006. Over four performances at Carnegie Hall on January 30 and 31 and February 2 and 3, they will present a complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies.
Launched in 2010 at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Beethoven for All tour will have spanned four continents by 2013.
“Beethoven’s music is universal,” says Barenboim. “Everywhere in the world – it speaks to all people.”