I switched the TV on half-way through a performance of Brahms’ 4th Symphony in London’s Royal Albert Hall last night. I’m not a great fan of Brahms (too stodgy, like German dumplings), but it was stirring nonetheless.
Conductor: Daniel Barenboim.
Orchestra: ?, but with a number of Levantine and Semitic features in the orchestra, so not the usual crowd (BBC Symphony Orchestra). It emerged that it was the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, about which I knew nothing. At the end of the performance, Barenboim spoke:
“Usually when we come to the Proms, I am encouraged to say a few words about what’s wrong with the Middle East. But you’ve just heard what’s right with the Middle East.”
That, and the roar of applause, said everything. Here is a demonstration that young Israelis and Arabs can, and do, work together.
As they went on to play the overture to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger (What, Jews playing Wagner!), I was almost reduced to tears as I watched and listened to these young Israelis and Arabs play this soaringly lovely piece of music.
Barenboim, by the way, more than rustled a few feathers when he sneaked a performance of the overture to Richard Wagners Tristan und Isolde in a concert he gave in Israel a few years back, after which he was denounced as a person non grata. Wagner was deeply antisemitic (proof that a complete shit can nevertheless write good music) and Hitler’s favorite composer. His music remains taboo in Israel even to this day.
More on last night’s London Proms here.
More on the uproar Barenboim created in Israel with his 2001 perfromance of Wagner here.
More on the Western-Eastern Divan orchestra here.
And a video (not last night’s performance, I’m afraid, but one in La Plaza Major, Madrid of Wagner’s Walkyrie), of Barenboim conducting the Western-Eastern Divan.
And Barenboim on Frost over the world.
BTW, who was it who said; “Blessed are the peacemakers”?