The Barenboim-Said Akademie Berlin
An extraordinary new music academy has been born in Berlin. Starting in 2015, the Academy will train young musicians from the Middle East, invited here on scholarship, in the spirit of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Daniel Barenboim and the American-Palestinian literary scholar Edward W. Said founded the Orchestra in 1999 in Weimar. With its name, it invokes J. W. Goethe’s late, lyrical work, which reflects the German poet’s admiration for the classical Persian love poems of Hafez, as well as his study of Islamic culture over many years: “God’s land is the Orient!/ God’s land is the Occident!/Northern like as Southern lands / Rest in peace between God’s hands.”
The Orchestra is comprised of young Arab and Israeli musicians. Through its many celebrated concerts all around the world under Maestro Barenboim, it has earned an outstanding international reputation over the course of the past 14 years. Orchestra members come together every year for rehearsals and concert performances. Today, many of them play as virtuosic interpreters of the symphonic repertoire in renowned orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, the Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra, the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, the Teatro alla Scala, the Staatskapelle Berlin, and the Berliner Philharmoniker. They do not view themselves as cultural ambassadors, but rather as exemplary artists. In their joint music-making, the hope for mutual understanding and harmony shines forth. With the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a utopian plan has become humanistic reality.
Our founding in 2012 of the non-profit corporation “Barenboim-Said Akademie GmbH” (Barenboim-Said Academy, BSA) has lifted this successful project to a new level. In the converted former depot of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, up to 100 young students from the conflicted Middle East will receive a three-year musical education, complemented by a liberal arts curriculum, focusing on music history and intellectual history. Daniel Barenboim will assume responsibility for the academic and musical direction of the Academy.
The Academy will include a new concert hall with 622 seats designed by Frank Gehry. The American architect is providing his work free of charge as a contribution to the project. The City of Berlin has entered into a 99-year leasehold agreement for the landmarked building with the Barenboim-Said Academy for one Euro per year. Construction work is to begin in 2014. Its costs will amount to approximately Euro 33,7 million. The Federal Government of Germany will underwrite the construction costs in the amount of Euro 20 million, the remainder is to be covered by private donations. Such donations are tax-deductible. Among the Academy’s first donors is the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who contributed the proceeds of an honorary award he received to the Academy. Other German and international donors have already made significant contributions to the project.