Peace Orchestra unites Arabs and Israelis

A rare spell of Middle Eastern harmony has been cast in Morocco, where Israeli-Argentinian musician Daniel Barenboim led an orchestra composed of young Palestinians, Israelis and other Arabs in a wildly applauded concert.

    Conductor Daniel Barenboim hopes to take his orchestra throughout the Arab world

    Sunday's concert of the West-Eastern Divan, dubbed the "peace orchestra," was one of the first of its type to be given in an Arab country, and it was attended by Her Royal Highness Lalla Salma, representing her husband King Muhammad VI.

    The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, co-founded five years ago by Barenboim and US-based Palestinian Christian author Edward Said, is composed of 80 musicians from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The players' ages range from just 13 to 26.

    The orchestra's goal is to "work for dialogue and friendship between our peoples, cultures and religions", according to the founders.

    Three pianos

    "We think that this project will only truly be realised when this orchestra can play in all the countries represented within the orchestra"

    Daniel Barenboim,
    pianist and conductor

    The one-off concert in Rabat, the group's first in an Arab country, included renditions of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony and Mozart's Concerto for three pianos, played symbolically by Barenboim along with a Palestinian and an Israeli pianist.

    "We think that this project will only truly be realised when this orchestra can play in all the countries represented within the orchestra," Barenboim told reporters before the concert.

    Some of the Arab musicians confessed to the BBC that they were worried about appearing alongside Israelis on Arab television, while others said they were proud to part of a "historic" event.

    After concerts in London, Seville and Rabat, the "Peace Orchestra" was due to play on France's Cote d'Azur on Monday in the presence of French President Jacques Chirac.

    Child prodigy

    Barenboim was born in 1942 in Buenos Aires to parents of Jewish-Russian descent. He was a child pianist prodigy who gave his first concert aged just seven.

    In 1991 he took over from Sir Georg Solti as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and also served as director of the Israel Festival from 1971-73.

    He has been general musical director of Berlin's flagship opera house, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, since 1992. The house orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, voted him their chief conductor for life in late 2000.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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