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The Ramallah concert in August 2005 involved much heart-searching on the part of the players. Barenboim made clear that participation must be a personal decision for each member of the orchestra, and it says much for his inspiration and conviction that he could assemble an orchestra of first-class accomplishment. It was not yet Mozart year at the time, but the Sinfonia Concertante for wind was a magnificent anticipation of world-wide celebrations [watch and listen -- DVD2 chapter 5, 40:06-41:17]. Mozart was followed on this occasion by Beethoven 5, eternal symbol of victory, perhaps on this occasion for good judgement and common sense.

Daniel Barenboim (left) replies to criticism from the Israeli Minister of Education. DVD screenshot © 2005 EuroArts Music International GmbH
Daniel Barenboim (left) replies to criticism from the Israeli Minister of Education. DVD screenshot © 2005 EuroArts Music International GmbH

Or was it so? The most chilling section of this admirable film is a scene within the Knesset when Barenboim is given an award for his musical achievements. His carefully crafted speech of acceptance quotes from Israel's foundation charter, which admittedly bore little resemblance to the messy realities of 1948. Be that as it may, he continues with a series of rhetorical questions asking how far Israel has lived up to its ideals of justice and good neighbourliness. The immediate response of the female minister of education, at which any heart must sink, is to accuse Barenboim of a deliberate attack on the state of Israel [watch and listen -- DVD1 chapter 9, 76:22-79:08].

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Copyright © 27 September 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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