Daniel Barenboim has many facets as a musician. He i a conductor, pianist, and was the spouse and performing partner of the late Jacqueline du Pre. Perhaps however, it is his role as a bringer of peace that will have the widest impact amongst those who appreciate music and even those who don’t.
Last weekend his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra performed in the de-militarised zone between North and South Korea. The orchestra is named after Goethe’s seminal collection of poems on the evolution of world culture “West-Eastern Divan” (”divan’ meaning ‘a council of state’). This concert is the lastest of Barenboim’s projects to use music to promote dialogue between long term enemies and bring about some degree of reconciliation.
Barenboim and his good friend, the late scholar Edward Said, formed the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999, comprising young musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries. The orchestra now has its base in Seville, where it convenes every year. However, it has performed all over the world, from Rabat in Morocco, to New York’s Carnegie Hall, and most notably in Ramallah, Palestine.
This month, the orchestra travelled to Korea’s de-militarised zone and performed Beethoven’s embracing 9th symphony with a South Korean choir and soloists at the doorstep of North Korea. Admittedly, the singers and audience were South Korean, but the event at least represents a beginning. …and attempt to bridge the chasm.
Indicentally, the soprano soloist in the concert was Korean Sumi Jo, who will be visting Sydney in December, performing at the Sydney Opera House with the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra.
More on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s tour to South Korea at: