Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another legendary Prom

One couldn't get into this one the other day for love or money. Annette Morreau's review (click above) really has it in a nutshell.

I did make it, though, to Barenboim's press conference last week -and have to say I've never before been moved to tears in a press conference before. Barenboim seems to have achieved what nobody else anywhere in the Middle East is able to do: bring young people from different sides together to meet one another during a shared endeavour. It's a grass-roots approach, and probably the only way to make any progress.

Five members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra were there with him; one was a young Palestinian violinist from Ramallah whose description of her endeavours to keep her musical training on the rails was deeply touching. After she'd talked about how she'd had a different teacher almost every year - they'd come in from other countries and then leave - Barenboim beamed: "Yet here she is, playing Mahler 1 in London." Two of the others, one Israeli and one Arab, pointed out that they lived just 40 minutes' drive from one another, yet there was no way they would ever have met, but for this orchestra.

The Goethe Institute has quite a good explanatory article about the orchestra's background.

They will play in Ramallah for the first time on 21st August. This is miraculous in itself. Spain - where the orchestra is based - has provided all the orchestra's youngsters with diplomatic passports for the occasion to make it possible. Barenboim's dream is that one day the orchestra will be permitted to play in every country from which its members are drawn...

I've been privileged to meet and write about a lot of fantastic musicians in the last 15 years, but if I had to pick out the greatest one of all, it has to be Barenboim. I don't believe anyone else on earth could have done what he's done for these young musicians.