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Extraordinary playing by West-East Divan Orchestra

Last night, I found myself gripped by a really vibrant, moving performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony at the BBC Proms. It was on the television (sadly I couldn’t go in person) and I was captivated. It continues to move me however many times I have heard it and however familiar it is – Beethoven deserves to be there up with the greats.

So what was it about this performance that had me rooted to my sofa unable to do anything else but listen and watch? Daniel Barenboim’s conducting was inspiring. He was focused, committed and his ideas were so clearly communicated to the players. The orchestra had the vitality of an outstanding youth orchestra along with the quality of playing you would only expect from some of the finest professional orchestras. The woodwind playing particularly was so focused and alive – such fabulous players.

Daniel Barenboim conducting the West-East Divan Orchestra

And then I reminded myself of what the West-Eastern divan orchestra is all about. An orchestra that has both Palestinians and Israelis in the same orchestra and that “provides an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East”.

I quote here from their website:

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable. The only political aspect prevailing the West-Eastern Divan’s work is the conviction that there will never be a military solution to the Middle East conflict, and that the destinies of the Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Through its work and existence the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to one another. Music by itself can, of course, not resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Music grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his or her neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the Orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East.” (

I wonder whether it is this way of thinking, this way of bringing people together to play music and listen to each other through music, that added such zest to this particular performance.


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