The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said created a workshop for young musicians from Israel, Palestine and several Arab countries to promote coexistence and intercultural dialogue. They named the orchestra after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's collection of poems entitled "West-Eastern Divan", a central work for the evolution of the concept of world culture.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's first sessions took place in Weimar and Chicago. In 2002, it found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it is generously supported by the regional government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucia). An equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians form the base of the orchestra, together with a group of Spanish members. Three different religious orientations are represented amongst the musicians. The Arab members of the orchestra belong to Christian and Muslim faith. They meet each summer in Seville for a workshop, where rehearsals are complemented by lectures and discussions and followed by an international concert tour.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable. The only political aspect that prevails in the work of the WEDO is the conviction that there is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Through its work and existence the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to the narrative of the other.
While music alone cannot resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, it grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East.
The Orchestra's repertoire expands beyond symphonic works to opera and chamber music performances. Concert highlights have included performances at Berlin's Philharmonic Hall, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Musikverein in Vienna, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the Hagia Eirene Museum in Istanbul, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as well as a concert in honour 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 festivals such as Salzburg or Lucerne.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has released a number of highly acclaimed CDs/DVDs. These include live recordings of Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 / Verdi: ouverture from La Forza del Destino / Sibelius: Valse Triste (2004); the emblematic concert at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah (2005); Beethoven: 9th Symphony (2006); Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat / Beethoven's Leonore Ouverture (2007); and Schönberg: Variations for Orchestra / Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (2011). The documentary "Knowledge is the Beginning" by Paul Smaczny has won several awards, among them an International Emmy (2006).
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra 2012
In 2012, the orchestra will continue its focus on a cycle of all of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies, coinciding with the release of a boxed set of the complete symphonies by Decca Classics in May. Also in May, the WEDO will to Qatar for the third time for a week of concerts, workshops and other events. The Summer Tour in July will take the musicians to several European venues. Highlights will be a large-scale open air concert at the Waldbühne in Berlin and a performance of the full Beethoven cycle at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.
Support the WEDO
An important part of the funds needed to continue the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's unique project is provided by its loyal audiences: All proceeds from the orchestra's tours are used to realize its vision.
The Orchestra and the projects it supports also rely on the generosity of individuals and corporations to finance many of its activities and scholarships. Please contribute generously. -
Financial support for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is channeled through four foundations: the Andalusian Public Foundation Barenboim-Said in Spain, the Daniel Barenboim Stiftung in Germany, the Barenboim-Said Foundation in the USA, and the West-Eastern Divan Trust in the UK. Special thanks are due to the Government of the autonomous Region of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucia) for its generous long-term support and hospitality in Sevilla.
The four foundations work in concert to raise money and organise the Orchestra workshops and tours, but also to develop various music education projects in Israel, Palestine and Spain. The Edward Said Kindergarten, a joint-venture with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, opened its doors in Ramallah in October 2004. The Barenboim-Said Centre in Ramallah and the Barenboim-Said Conservatories in Nazareth and Jaffa provide instrumental and singing lessons and organize yearly orchestra workshops; classes are open to all students irrespective of social or ethnic background. Another area of activities is a concert series in Palestine, which started in February 2009. The programme so far has included performances by internationally renowned performers such as Elisabeth Leonskaja or Emmanuel Pahud as well as recitals by teachers, members of the WEDO, and students.
All four foundations are recognized as non-profit organizations under their respective jurisdictions and donations are deductible to the full extent permitted under the Spanish, German, US and UK tax codes. Tax deductions can also be arranged for several other countries. Please contact us for details.