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  • Musician Spotlights: WQXR Radio Interviews

Musician Spotlights: WQXR Radio Interviews

Four musicians of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra spoke with WQXR radio at the Lucerne Festival this summer. Their interviews are available here to discover.

Layale Chaker, Lebanon/Palestine, violin

“In this orchestra, we come to a place that is by default a place of debate, and of dialogue, and of coexistence–which is very rare and actually doesn’t exist anywhere else…. Here we’re not in a situation where there is an oppressed and an oppressor. It’s different. We are by default all equal, which makes it possible–and beautiful–to see human relationships and friendships grow day after day.”

Boris Kertsman, Israel, trumpet

“Having grown up in Israel, of course, it’s a democratic country. But we have our media there, of course. The first time I was talking to an Arab musician, it was totally different [from narratives in the media]. We were fighting, struggling. We had conversations. Little by little, I started seeing other sides, other aspects, and a fuller picture of the thing.”

Mina Zikri, Egypt, violin

“The Divan Orchestra, for people that participate in it, is more than musical project. It’s also a human project. It sends a clear message, not necessarily giving any solutions, but it offers a model of thinking at least…. Sometimes you are accused of normalization and looking over obvious problems. But we always stress that we are not a peace project; we’re not trying to solve anything when we can’t. But we are listening to the narrative of the other and at least understanding it—which is what happens in the orchestra, when you play the primary line and the clarinet has to listen to you, while he or she still plays, and you the do the opposite. So there is a space for everyone to express themselves. While the others are not necessarily silent, they are still expressing–-in support of the other or listening to the other.”

Miriam Manasherov, Israel, viola

“The music sets a bridge. Through the music you open yourself to things you would not have been open to otherwise.”


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  • Waldbühnenkonzert 2015
    Manuel Vaca

Waldbühnenkonzert 2015

With more than 15,000 spectators having flocked to their annual tour finale at Berlin’s forest stage last month, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will return to the Waldbühne on August 15, 2015 for a spectacular concert led by co-founder Daniel Barenboim. The 2015 summer tour will culminate at the beloved outdoor concert venue with a program comprising Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

Tickets to the concert are now available.

Reserve your space here.

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  • BBC News: Uniting Arabs, Israelis
    Manuel Vaca

BBC News: Uniting Arabs, Israelis

“Here we are, over five years later, and the situation in the Middle East is somehow – unimaginably – worse.

And yet the members of the West-Eastern Divan meet on, play on and through their courage in the face of increasing hostility at home – not a single government represented by the orchestra’s members gives them its blessing – they are the living, breathing proof of a model in which Arabs and Israelis do come together.

It isn’t perfect: there is plenty of disagreement within its ranks; but nor is it the product of some kind of utopian idealistic vision. Since the orchestra’s almost accidental inception fifteen years ago, hundreds of Arabs and Israelis have participated, and their daily discussions and debates about the conflict and the situation in the Middle East are as fundamental to their programme as the music rehearsals and concerts.”

Clemency Burton-Hill, who has toured and performed with the Divan, profiles the orchestra for BBC News. Read the article.


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  • NY Times: Arabs and Israelis Find Common Ground Under a Baton
    Monika Ritterhaus

New York Times: Arabs and Israelis Find Common Ground Under a Baton

Mr. Barenboim and his tireless charges offered five other encores in sparkling accounts: four numbers from Bizet’s “Carmen” and a tango they had just picked up in Argentina. A brilliant concert on the surface.

And underneath, something more. “This is the only place in the world where an Israeli or an Arab does something important,” Mr. Barenboim said, referring to the solos within the orchestra, “and the others support him. It is another way of thinking for the majority in the region.”

Jim Oestreich of The New York Times profiles and reviews the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and its co-founder Daniel Barenboim.

Read the article here.

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  • Join us for the Waldbühnenzkonert

Das Waldbühnenkonzert features Ravel’s Boléro and Barenboim as pianist & conductor

Join the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim for this summer’s Waldbühne Berlin concert, the finale to their 2014 tour. The open-air concert sees Barenboim conducting and soloing with the Divan in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, KV 595. The Divan also perform Ravel’s Rhapsodie espagnoleAlborada del graciosoPavane pour une infante défunte, and BoléroPurchase tickets here.

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  • “When Am I Truly Myself?”
    Manuel Vaca

“When Am I Truly Myself?”

Thinking together: Mena Mark Hanna and Roni Mann led a conversation with members of the West-Eastern Divan, Mariam C. Said, and Daniel Barenboim to discuss Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic, the idea of exile in the work of Edward Said, and what this all means for performing musicians. Here below is a reflection by Hanna and Mann.

“When Am I Truly Myself?” – this universal and existential question opened our series of encounters with the members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, dedicated to philosophy and critical reflection.

To start thinking together about deep issues of self and identity, we discussed Hegel’s dialectic of the Master and Slave, which suggested the following answer to our opening theme: I am truly myself when I am in the right kind of relationship with others, a relationship of mutual recognition. We spoke about form as well as content, philosophical terminology as well as the significance “for us.” How do we relate to others in our own personal and political existence? Do we overcome simple “othering” and power dynamics?

We then turned to Edward Said’s Reflections on Exile. Said’s answer to the opening question is more ambivalent: I seek to be more truly myself by looking for the right relationship with “home.” Exiles are nationless and belong in a condition of multiple identities: a counterpoint of perspectives with one’s past home and one’s current condition. This search for belonging is shared by many members of the Divan Orchestra and Said’s ideas became the basis of a conversation that extended long beyond the classroom. We considered the link between the condition of exile and artistic creation, and discussed the idea of “losing oneself” in a perspective outside of oneself, as a way to a life richer in texture and meaning.

As the discussion drew closer to the experience of performing musicians, Daniel Barenboim offered his insight on the special relevance of the dialectical practice to the relationship with a musical score. “I allow myself to have a first encounter with the score in which my reaction is shock and fear”, he said, describing the score as standing outside oneself like a menacing presence. Later one loses oneself in the score, listening to what it has to say, investigating its innermost connections and meanings. Only then can one bring it back to one’s own world of associations. The music then becomes fully one’s own. And then, he said, “it sounds like I am improvising.”

– Mena Mark Hanna & Roni Mann, 19 August, 2014

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  • Note from Lucerne: On Exile
    Manuel Vaca

Note from Lucerne: On Exile

Layale Chaker, a violinist in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, shares a reflection on a discussion about Edward Said and the concept of exile. Her note is reproduced below:

One evening in Lucerne, we gathered to watch a documentary film about Edward Said, where the late Palestinian intellectual chronicled aspects of his personal life, as well as some of his intellectual reflections. Although he discussed his thoughts on exile, he opposed them, once again, to any form of identity proclamation, and to glorifying exile into a romantic struggle, a longing for the ancestral land, for the orange blossoms, or the olive trees. It is precisely, to me, what makes his work so paradoxical and so difficult to understand. What is exile, if it is not an insurmountable pain, a ground crack between the human being and his native land?

After the film, Ronni Mann began the discussion with a question: “Which of you here feels exiled? ” Not more than three or four timid hands arose. This opened the floor for a discussion which soon took a path that started to answer my questions.

Exile concerns those who, uprooted, have always felt stateless, but it can also concern the uprooting chosen by musicians, who can only fulfill their engagement through voluntary detachment, and through taking a journey.

For musicians, exile can therefore take a metaphorical turn, as it becomes one of the conditions for creativity and artistic production, which carry within them an essential critical and dissident force. Our position as outsiders would then become an instrument of resistance, a gesture of emancipation and transgression, and a liberating alternative. Our instability, whether initially forced upon us or chosen, can become a vocation, and a medium of new possibilities, as it allows the emergence of forgotten truths and the birth of alternatives.

There is something greatly soothing when discussing and thinking about these subjects together. Reflecting upon our vocation as musicians in the context of the Divan, as well as in the wider context of artists in the world, can only guide us further into our chosen engagements and our goals. Becoming thinking musicians in order to better carry our aims… That is one thought that could resume this summer’s tour.”

– Layale Chaker, violin

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  • Note from Lucerne: Hegel & Said
    Manuel Vaca

Note from Lucerne: Hegel & Said

“On the 17th of August something extraordinary happened in Lucerne: members of the West-Eastern Divan sat in a room and talked about….Hegelian self-consciousness. Another subject matter was Edward Saïd’s concept of orientalism, but that may not be quite as extraordinary. What had happened?

Roni Mann and Mena Mark Hanna, two thinkers from Israel and Egypt who will work for the newly created Barenboim-Saïd Academy, had come to visit us.Roni began with Hegel: self-consciousness only exists when it is recognised by others. The famous master-slave dialectic served as an explanation and as a basis to understand this idea. Then Mena continued with Saïd, at first linking his ideas to the power-relationship of the master and the slave. Saïd uses the conceptual pair of nationalism and exile. His assumption is that in exile one has at least two identities, as opposed to just one “national” identity, and that is comparable to the slave who is forced to perceive the world through his own eyes and also through the eyes of his master. The discussion then led to the concept of orientalism which denotes the collection of ideas of the “orient” that serve to prove their inherent inferiority. This concept is necessary for the coloniser to legitimise his actions.

Why is this extraordinary? Because everyone expects us to talk about Gaza, the occupation, rockets, injustice, security, etc., which we did before. But nobody would expect Hegel. Absolutely nobody. And nobody expects that from any orchestra, anywhere. Long may it continue!”

– Michael Barenboim, violin

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  • Thank you, Buenos Aires. Hello, Europe!
    Manuel Vaca
  • Thank you, Buenos Aires. Hello, Europe!

Thank you, Buenos Aires. Hello, Europe!

Following a triumphant eleven-day, sold-out Teatro Colón Festival in Buenos Aires–where over 22,000 listeners flocked to the iconic opera house at Plaza Lavalle to hear the orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, and guest Martha Argerich perform–the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra heads to Europe to perform at the continent’s major music festivals.

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  • UNTREF Honors Divan
    © Monika Ritterhaus

West-Eastern Divan, Edward Said, Mariam C. Said and Daniel Barenboim honored by Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero

Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero today honored the late Edward Said and Mariam C. Said with the title Doctor Honoris Causa for their work within the framework of the West-Eastern Divan, alongside Daniel Barenboim, who received his honorary doctorate from UNTREF in 2005. The ceremony, which took place at the Sede Centro Cultural Borges, featured remarks by Dr. Horacio González, director of Argentina’s Biblioteca Nacional, and Dr. Hamurabi Noufouri, Director of the Master in Cultural Diversity UNTREF.

15 years ago, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as an experiment in coexistence.

Each year, the orchestra brings together musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt – joined by a number of musicians from Iran, Turkey and Spain – to perform music and promote reflection and mutual understanding. They meet each summer for a workshop, where rehearsals are complemented by lectures and discussion and followed by an international concert tour. This year, the orchestra is in residence at Buenos Aires’s Teatro Colón, from where they will embark on a tour of the major music festivals of Europe. The orchestra was founded at the invitation of the Kunstfest Weimar, and it derives its name from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems entitled “West-Eastern Divan,” a central work in the evolution of the concept of world culture.​

Discover the story of the West-Eastern Divan and its ideals.

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  • Summer Tour Celebrates Divan at 15
    Opening Night, August 3, 2014 © Teatro Colón
  • Summer Tour Celebrates Divan at 15
    Opening Night, August 3, 2014 © Teatro Colón
  • Summer Tour Celebrates Divan at 15
    Opening Night, August 3, 2014 © Teatro Colón

Summer workshop & tour celebrate Divan at 15 with Buenos Aires residency, European festivals and world premieres

In less than one month, the members of the West-Eastern Divan reunite in Buenos Aires for a residency at the city’s iconic Teatro Colón, the first of five cities the orchestra travels to on their 2014 summer tour. In addition to their annual workshop, which this year takes place in the Argentinian capital, the West-Eastern Divan performs at the Teatro Colón in a series of concerts–highlighted this season by esteemed guest artists and two world premieres–before setting out to the Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms, and Salzburg Festival. The Divan’s summer tour culminates once again at the Waldbühne Berlin, which hosts their spectacular concert on August 24.

Explore the summer concerts & residency here.

Founded 15 years ago in 1999 by pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian author/scholar Edward Said, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is comprised of musicians from Palestine, Israel, and other Arab countries – as well as musicians from Spain and Germany. In joining together to perform, the orchestra reaffirms its commitment to promote mutual understanding, non-violence, and reconciliation through music.

Click “read more” to learn more about this summer’s tour.

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Joint Statement on Current Events in Israel/Palestine

We are deeply saddened and concerned by the news reaching us from Israel/Palestine and share the worries of our members. During these trying times, we must stress the importance of the art of listening. Listening skills are learnt and perfected by playing in the orchestra. We must remember how important it is to apply what we learn on stage to other aspects of our lives as well. To quote Schopenhauer, “Nothing will bring us back to the path of justice so readily as the mental picture of the trouble, grief, and lamentation of the loser.” In this conflict, both sides are losers. 
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a community that is built on trust, respect, empathy, and a culture of listening and understanding. These values are the core of our work together. That is why the Divan is a beacon of hope for all.

Daniel Barenboim & Mariam C. Said

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  • Vacancies and auditions
    Photo © Monika Ritterhaus

Vacancies and auditions

While the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra currently has no vacancies for summer 2014, we invite interested musicians to submit recent audio and visual recordings as audition material. Applicants will be contacted directly in the case of cancellations or immediate vacancies. All materials will be kept on file for consideration for the 2015 workshop and tour.

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  • Listen online: Edward Said Memorial Lecture

Edward Said Memorial Lecture 2014

Renowned Palestinian lawyer and writer Raja Shehadeh delivered this year’s Edward Said Memorial Lecture titled “Is There a Language of Peace?” earlier this spring at the British Museum and last fall at Columbia University, where the West-Eastern Divan co-founder held the preeminent position of University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. The London lecture is now available to listen to streaming online.

Listen to it here.

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  • Barenboim-Said Akademie begins construction
    From left: Daniel Barenboim, Monika Grütters, Michael Naumann
  • Barenboim-Said Akademie begins construction
    Pierre Boulez Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry

Barenboim-Said Akademie begins construction

A new, unique music academy is taking shape in Berlin: Starting in the fall of 2016, gifted young students will embark upon a new course of study. In addition to musical instruction, the Barenboim-Said Akademie will include a core curriculum in music and the history of thought. The pedagogic and musical leadership will be provided by Daniel Barenboim. The renovation of the former stage depot of the Berlin State Opera on Französische Straße began today, May 6, 2014.

The idea of the Academy is deeply rooted in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded in Weimar in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American academic and critic Edward W. Said.

The ensemble consists of equal numbers of young Israeli and Arab musicians who, through their shared music making, individually advocate for peaceful coexistence. “Perhaps the Academy is best understood as an unusual attempt to further, through the means of music and thought, a kind of human development that leads to mutual understanding“, said the Academy’s founder Daniel Barenboim in Berlin on the occasion of the Academy’s groundbreaking.

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  • Composers spotlight: Ayal Adler and Kareem Roustom
    Kareem Roustom (L) Ayal Adler (R)
  • Composers spotlight: Ayal Adler and Kareem Roustom

Composers spotlight: Ayal Adler and Kareem Roustom

This summer the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will premiere and tour two new commissions: Ramal for orchestra by Syrian-born composer Kareem Roustom, and Resonating Sounds for large orchestra by Israeli composer Ayal Adler. Both composers introduce their works in program notes reprinted here for you to read.

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