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The Ramallah Concert - Knowledge Is The Beginning / Barenboim

Release Date: 02/07/2006 
Label:  Warner Classics (Dvd)   Catalog #: 62792  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartLudwig van BeethovenSir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Mor BironMohamed SalehKinan AzmehSharon Polyak
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Imported from : UNITED KINGDOM   
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This two-DVD set documents the West Eastern Divan Orchestra's August 2005 performance in the Palestinian city, and includes repertoire for which Barenboim is celebrated. The complete concert is supplemented by an 18-minute bonus feature about the effects of the tense political situation on these young musicians and the special events that led up to this historic performance. Also includes the feature-length documentary Knowledge Is The Beginning, which was filmed over a six-year period and tells the story of Barenboim's development of the orchestra through interviews, rehearsals, and concert excerpts.

“ … the resulting orchestra is truly stunning, both technically and when it comes to refined enthusiasm.” – BBC Music
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“That such magnetic, finely detailed performances stemmed from a single live event makes them all the more remarkable … inspiring.”- Gramophone

“The orchestra is a joy to watch … deeply moving.” – Newark Star-Ledger

“… remarkable … their performance is infused with a thrusting energy and passionate commitment.” – Chicago Tribune

“Great music played in a spirit of comradeship, and wonderfully performed by young musicians.”- London Times (Classical CD of the Week)

“[Barenboim and Said’s] quixotic vision – to use music to ease tension between Jews and Muslims – played out brilliantly within the orchestra.” – Forbes


On August 21, 2005 during the week of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a historic concert took place given by The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. This Orchestra was the product of a remarkable friendship between the renowned Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian-born writer Edward Said. It is a unique musical collaboration dedicated to further the cause of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. Barenboim makes it clear that music cannot bring about peace but can bring about a greater understanding between young people of different cultures. The orchestra is a creation of Barenboim and aims for closer Israeli/Palestinian co-operation. It contains the finest young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from both sides of the divide and includes Israelis, Palestinians, Libyans, Syrians and some young people from Spain.

This new DVD includes repertoire for which Barenboim is renowned: Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Elgar's Nimrod (from Enigma Variations). The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's appearance at the 2005 Proms, including a performance of the Mozart, was quite wonderful and I can say my 82 year old mother thought it the best Prom she’d ever seen!

Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

A quite wonderful performance of a marvellous piece. There are people around who question that the work IS Mozart; well I’m not one of them. This is superlative and life-affirming music-making. The four soloists who come from the orchestra have wonderful interplay under the encouragement of Barenboim who is one of the great Mozartians. After the exciting first movement and lovely Andante we have a brilliant rendition of the finale. All well filmed with moving shots of the entranced audience; their appreciation at the end is the mark of an excellent version which would stand up equally well simply as a CD.

Beethoven Fifth Symphony

After an explosive start I’m struck by the speed of the first movement – no hanging about here. The film is excellent in bringing home the excitement of Beethoven’s music. The opening chord is often seen as fate knocking on the door - how appropriate here in Ramallah. The orchestra playing their heart out under inspired conducting and the audience are in awe of what is happening. Slight roughness at times reminds us of the fact that this work was written during the Napoleonic wars; here is music played by battle instruments. A supreme and moving slow movement again highlights the woodwind and brass. Barenboim, as ever, is great at drawing out the colours of the orchestra. The allegro brings out the military background to the music juxtaposed with the underlying striving for humanity. The moments before the crescendo are spellbinding. The allegro is so inspiring that it is difficult to stop standing and applauding as it storms to a glorious finale. This is a Beethoven 5th on par with Tennstedt (Proms: 30 August 1990 on BBC Legends 41582).

Elgar Nimrod

After moving speeches we have Nimrod which is evocative especially in view of Barenboim’s association with Elgar. This is a very good rendition. I would love to hear the whole work. A sad but affirming finale from a great humanitarian.

As well as the concert there is a striking documentary filmed over six years which shows what a wonderful project this is. I am really impressed by Barenboim’s enthusiasm and the efforts he has made as a Jew.

The sound when played through competent stereo equipment is terrific as is the picture. This is a wonderful DVD of an historic and momentous event. Moreover it is not just to play once. I will turn to it whenever I want to be inspired and reminded of the infinite power of music.

As one of the orchestra says "So exciting it is hard not to cry."

--David R Dunsmore, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Sinfonia concertante for Winds in E flat major, K 297b (K Anh 9) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Mor Biron (Bassoon), Mohamed Saleh (Oboe), Kinan Azmeh (Clarinet),
Sharon Polyak (French Horn)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Written: 1778 
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma": Variation 9, Nimrod by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 

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