Israel-born Daniel Barenboim established the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999, driven by his own deeply-felt personal commitment to bridge the Arab-Israeli divide by recruiting musicians from both sides of the conflict to play together.
Barenboim explains to CNN that when a Syrian cellist and an Israeli cellist sit down in his orchestra supposed enemies are playing the same notes, with the same intensity, with the same goal. “After you’ve done that for six hours,” Barenboim said, “you look at this monster a little bit different because you see that he also has some of the same preoccupations – not political – that you have.”
“It’s sad to see that we’re swimming against the current,” he says in an interview with Bloomberg. “In the Middle East no one wants to have anything to do with it. The orchestra cannot play in any of the countries that are represented in it.”
The orchestra played to rave reviews in the U.K. in the summer of 2012 during the BBC’s Proms series – excerpted in the video – and landed in the northeastern U.S. in January for a brief tour. Their final New York concert featured the Westminster Symphony Chorus in a stirring performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Hear in its entirety.