At the Philharmonie de Paris, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for peace


Daniel Barenboim created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with writer and critic of american-palestinian Edward Said, to promote dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis through music.
© MAURIZIO GAMBARINI / DPA / dpa Picture-Alliance/AFP/ MAURIZIO GAMBARINI

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In the darkness of the impressive salle Pierre-Boulez, at the Philharmonie de Paris, a little man in the skull of the blue shake in the middle of the stage, held on a platform. He waves his little wand from left to right, from top to bottom and sweeps the air with his hand, and pushes large breaths. Twenty metres further up, in the audience, a young man with brown hair mimics his gestures with an amazing synchronization. At the last note of the 5th symphony of Tchaikovsky, the approximately 2 400 classical music lovers are raising in a single movement to acknowledge the performance of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The international orchestra of Daniel Barenboim, which was happening for the second time at la Villette since the inauguration of the facility in January 2015, receiving a thunder of applause. On stage, the hundred or so musicians, all smile, greet politely the assembly at the height of happiness. The “strings” are waving their bows in the air as a thank you. The public wanting more.

“90 % of us have a past complicated “

The output of the artists, a small group of admirers came to greet “El Maestro” politely push back by a security guard. “El Maestro” is none other than Daniel Barenboim, conductor of the israeli-argentine of international renown, who, despite his 74 years of age, continues to travel the world, with boundless energy, in the company of his orchestra.

When he created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with writer and critic of american-palestinian Edward Said, the idea is to promote dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis through music. Eighteen years later, Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians, Egyptians, some Spaniards and French joined the staff of 80 musicians. Each summer, the orchestra began to tour internationally to promote dialogue between peoples. In particular, they have organized a concert in Ramallah, in the west bank, in 2005.

Sadra Fayyaz, violist iran, joined the Couch two years ago : “there is a crazy energy in this group, described the young polyglot 25 years old (he speaks French, Persian, English and German), 90 % of us have a past that is complicated, but here we are all around music. “If he is convinced that” music is one of the only means of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians “, the musician recalls that the Couch is before all an orchestra and not a political body. Of course, the situation has not always been evident in the orchestra. “We mostly pay attention to the jokes on communities,” says a young cellist of the orchestra. But, according to Sadra, there are almost no arguments for the past few years. And if sometimes the geopolitical tensions invade the rehearsal rooms, it is, nevertheless, that the orchestra became a reference. Proof : in 2016, the UN has been named ” global ambassador for cultural understanding “.

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