Monday, January 14, 2008

Honoris causa

Honored with a trouble: As it tends to happen with/to inspired artists. Yesterday evening Daniel Barenboim, the famous music conductor, received at the conclusion of a concert in Ramallah his honorary passport offered by the Palestinian Authority, for his ceaseless efforts to produce hope in the West Bank, by means of his mixed arabo-jewish band. The project is known as "West-Eastern Divan Workshop",and these days it hosts 80 young and talented musicians. Barenboim, an Argentinian breed of jewish descent is not allowed to perform in Israel as the word goes: the reason might be that he once presented work of Richard Wagner, Hitler's favorite composer, but this is just nonsense for massive consumption, because it was a mixed Judo-Germanic public that made Wagner a big name during the late 19th early 20th century. And how could the father of a whole musical tradition be cast away? I guess it is his collaboration with Edward Said and his pro-palestinian credo that made him persona non grata in the halls of Israel.
I just hope that he will not try to cross the borders using his honorary passport or, perhaps, I hope he will try to do it, and that this experience will appear at some turn of his baguette during a concert. Somewhere await for us the images that embittered us.

I like how it is presented in his official website the concept of the mixed orchestra. Because, no matter what we say, both nations are capable of producing some of the best music and misconceptions.
In the early 1990s, a chance meeting between Mr. Barenboim and the late Palestinian-born writer and Columbia University professor Edward Said in a London hotel lobby led to an intensive friendship that has had both political and musical repercussions. These two men, who should have been poles apart politically, discovered in that first meeting, which lasted for hours, that they had similar visions of Israeli/Palestinian possible future cooperation. They decided to continue their dialogue and to collaborate on musical events to further their shared vision of peaceful co-existence in the Middle East. This led to Mr. Barenboim's first concert on the West Bank, a piano recital at the Palestinian Birzeit University in February 1999, and to a workshop for young musicians from the Middle East that took place in Weimar, Germany, in August 1999.

The West-Eastern Divan Workshop took two years to organize and involved talented young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel. The idea was that they would come together to make music on neutral ground with the guidance of some of the world's best musicians. Weimar was chosen as the site for the workshop because of its rich cultural tradition of writers, poets, musicians and creative artists and because it was the 1999 European cultural capital. Mr. Barenboim wisely chose two concertmasters for the orchestra, an Israeli and a Lebanese. There were some tense moments among the young players at first but, coached by members of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the Staatskapelle Berlin, and following master classes with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and nightly cultural discussions with Mr. Said and Mr. Barenboim, the young musicians worked and played in increasing harmony. The West-Eastern Divan Workshop was held again in Weimar in the summer of 2000 and in Chicago in the summer of 2001. It has since found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it has been based since 2002. Each summer, following their workshop, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra gives public concerts; to date they have performed in Europe and North and South America, including at the BBC Proms, the Edinburgh Festival and the Lucerne Festival. In 2004, they performed a historic concert in Ramallah, the Orchestra's first concert in an Arab country. In 2006, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performs in Madrid, Seville, Peralada, Santander, Cádiz, Brussels, Paris, Cologne, Cairo, Berlin, Weimar and Milan.

Edward Said passed away in 2003 but his partnership with Daniel Barenboim lives on through the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra and through the Barenboim-Said Foundation, which promotes music and co-operation through projects targeted at young Arabs and Israelis. In January 2005, Daniel Barenboim delivered the first Edward Said Lecture at Columbia University in New York City
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And I believe that E.Said last night received the news with a smile behind his glasses, in the crystal realms of memory/forgetfulness.

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