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The title of the orchestra comes from Goethe's 1819 collection of lyric poems inspired by a German translation of the Persian Hafiz. Goethe was the sage of Weimar, European capital of culture 180 years on. So there was much resonance in the foundation of such an orchestra in a city with musical traditions that embraced such giants as Bach, Liszt and Wagner, and was yet within a few miles of Buchenwald, reminder of Germany's shame and part-motivation for the existence of Israel [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 2, 5:24-6:23]. Barenboim could effortlessly gather round him world-class musicians, and it was with mixed emotions that I listened to him and Yo-Yo Ma beginning the Brahms sonata I last played with Barenboim's ex-wife, Jacqueline du Pré [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 3, 15:50-16:40].

Edward Said (left) and Daniel Barenboim. DVD screenshot © 2005 EuroArts Music International GmbH
Edward Said (left) and Daniel Barenboim. DVD screenshot © 2005 EuroArts Music International GmbH

Joint-founder of the orchestra was the late Edward Said, eloquent advocate for the aspirations of both occupied and unoccupied Palestine, and indomitable fighter for a freedom he passionately espoused. No one was more aware that a people will usually prefer bad government to a foreign one. Yet Al-Andalus, Moslem stronghold in mediaeval Spain, produced in a tolerant Cordoba the intellectual capital of Europe where all religions were welcome (the Inquisition was a distasteful Christian reaction to it). So Seville has become the home town of the Barenboim-Said orchestra, and Spain provided all the documentation necessary for young Israelis and Arabs from many lands to meet for concert-giving in Palestinian Ramallah [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 6, 44:20-45:53].

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Copyright © 27 September 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK


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