Performance Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | 8 PM

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony begins with some of the most memorable and awe-inspiring notes in music history. It’s bold music, perfect for this fearless group of young Arab and Israeli musicians dedicated to making great music as a matter of common interest. The sprightly First and the Eighth complete the concert—the first night of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's complete Beethoven symphony cycle.


  • West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
  • Daniel Barenboim, Music Director and Conductor


  • Symphony No. 1
  • Symphony No. 8
  • Symphony No. 5


  • West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

    For more than 10 years, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has been a significant presence in the international music world. In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra-an ensemble that brings together young musicians from Israel, Palestine, and various Arab countries in the Middle East. Its main goal is to make possible a dialogue between the various cultures through the experience of living and playing music together. Mr. Barenboim and Mr. Said named the orchestra and workshop after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's collection of poems entitled West-Eastern Divan, a central work in the evolution of the concept of world culture.

    Throughout its existence, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable. It 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, but it can bring home the validity of life experiences and narratives on all sides. The only political aspect of 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 fates of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked.

    The orchestra's repertoire expands beyond symphonic works to opera and chamber music performances. Concert highlights have included performances at Berlin's Philharmonie, Milan's Teatro alla Scala, Vienna's Musikverein, Moscow's Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Istanbul's Hagia Irene Museum, Paris's Salle Pleyel, Madrid's Plaza Mayor, and Buenos Aires's Teatro Colón, as well as a concert in honor of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York in December 2006. The orchestra is a regular guest at the BBC Proms and the Salzburg and Lucerne festivals.

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  • Daniel Barenboim

    Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He received his first piano lessons from his mother at age five. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. At the age of seven, he gave his first public concert in Buenos Aires. His international debut came three years later with concerts in Vienna and Rome, followed by performances in Paris (1955), London (1956), and New York (1957) under Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has regularly toured Europe the United States, South America, Australia, and the Far East.

    Ever since his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Mr. Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. He was principal conductor of the Orchestre de Paris (1975-1989) and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1991-2006). Upon his departure from the Chicago Symphony, the musicians of the orchestra named him honorary conductor for life. Since 1992, Mr. Barenboim has been general music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden. In 2000, the Staatskapelle Berlin appointed him principal conductor for life. With the opening of the 2007-2008 season, Mr. Barenboim began a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where he regularly conducts opera and concert performances, and plays in chamber music concerts as "maestro scaligero." In the autumn of 2011, he was appointed music director of the famous opera house.

    In 1999, Mr. Barenboim, together with Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said, established the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. He also initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories, which includes the foundation of a music kindergarten as well as a Palestinian youth orchestra. He is the recipient of numerous awards honoring his peace efforts.

    Mr. Barenboim has published a number of books, including the autobiography A Life in Music and Parallels and Paradoxes, which he wrote together with Mr. Said. In the summer of 2008, his book Everything is Connected was published. Together with Patrice Chéreau, in December 2008 he published Dialoghi su musica e teatro. Tristano e Isotta.

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Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (Allegro con brio)
West Eastern Divan Orchestra | Daniel Barenboim, Music Director and Conductor
Warner Classics

At a Glance

Beethoven bridged the 18th and the 19th centuries. His music likewise straddles what have come to be known as the Classical and Romantic periods in music. As if honoring such distinctions, Beethoven duly paid homage to Mozart and Haydn—two of Vienna's adopted Classical sons—in his early works and through his devotion to the symphony. But, as he strode out into the 19th century, Beethoven demonstrated that he was a highly innovative composer in his own right. Ultimately, Beethoven's music, not least his extraordinary series of nine symphonies, defies such temporal categorizations.

In this evening's concert, we hear three of these totemic masterworks, starting with Beethoven's very first symphony, which he began in 1799. It opens with a dissonant chord, which in turn triggers an unsettling introduction and a highly discursive opening movement. This is clearly the work of a brilliant musical mind, unafraid of bucking tradition. Moving ahead 13 years, Beethoven was at work on his Eighth Symphony. It may initially appear to be a return to the Classicism of his youth, but it is decidedly dramatic and forward thinking. Few musical works, however, can touch the scope and power of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Revered for more than two centuries, providing a soundtrack to war and peace, feast and famine, it was justly described by E. M. Forster as "the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man."
Program Notes


Daniel Barenboim and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Beethoven for All

An Introduction to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

The Trustees of Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Richard A. Debs in support of the 2012-2013 season.

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