The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
The orchestra was founded by Daniel Barenboim and the American-Palestinian literary scholar Edward W. Said in Weimar in 1999. 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.
Barenboim-Said Music Center Ramallah
Daniel Barenboim has been supporting music and education in Israel and Palestine for many years. The projects on the West Bank are coordinated through the Barenboim-Said Music Center that maintains a facility with offices and classrooms in Ramallah and serves as a home base for its 10-15 full-time instrument teachers.
Since 2003, a number of projects for all ages from pre-school to conservatory level have been realised in Israel and the West Bank. They have expanded in both geographical coverage and number of participants. The number of students actively taught through these projects has grown to more than 250 and continues to rise. They reach a far greater audience with their concerts and other public events.
The Edward Said Kindergarten, a joint-venture with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, opened its doors in Ramallah in October 2004. Instrumental and singing lessons are given at the Center’s premises in Ramallah and at partner institutions such as Al-Kamandjati or the Friends School of Ramallah. In addition to their regular teaching activities, the teachers and advanced students of the Foundation regularly perform concerts and introductory workshops in schools, youth clubs and community centres throughout the West Bank, e.g. in Bethlehem or Jenin.
One of the first events organised by the Foundation was the “Concert for Two Peoples” held in Jerusalem on 28 March 2008 in which Daniel Barenboim appeared both as conductor and soloist with an orchestra of young Israelis and Palestinians.
February 2009 marked the beginning of a new concert series in Ramallah initiated by Daniel Barenboim personally. The first concert was given by Elisabeth Leonskaja, followed by performances by Emmanuel Pahud and Saleem Abboud Ashkar. The Ramallah concerts have since become a fixture in the cultural life of the West Bank.
In July 2009, students from the various projects supported by the Foundation came together as an orchestra and choir to perform an opera project, The Sultana of Cadiz. The piece, a pastiche of works by Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga, played to a full house during its run at the Ramallah Cultural Palace. It was the first-ever opera production to be shown on the West Bank.