Thursday, 14 August 2008

HOT: Prom 38: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall

I love the egalitarianism of the Prom season (you can get standing tickets for £5) and that spirit of inclusion is also personified by superstar musician Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The bringing together of young Arab and Israeli musicians is an admirable feat, but I feared in the first half that their musicality would not be able to match their noble endeavours. The Haydn Sinfonia Concertante in B flat major was pleasant but didn't particularly grab me, and the Schoenberg Variations for Orchestra was a 20 minute variation on incomprehensible discord (never been a fan of Schoenberg). Luckily, their interpretation of the Brahms Symphony No.4 was very exciting and every musician seemed to be drawn into their playing with fierce concentration and swelling emotion. The encore was a grand rendition of Wagner's overture for Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - an outwardly controversial piece for Jewish musicians but as Barenboim said 'this orchestra shows what's right in the Middle East'. I wish them good luck so that 'young people from Israel and all the Arab countries can express themselves freely and openly whilst at the same time hearing the narrative of the other.'

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