BEETHOVEN Leonore Overture No. 3. BOTTESINI Read more class="ARIAL12">(arr. Bunya) Fantasia on Themes by Rossini.1 BRAHMS Symphony No. 1 • Daniel Barenboim, cond; Kyril Zlotnikov (vc);1 Nabil Shehata (db);1 West-Eastern Divan O • EUROARTS 2055538 (DVD: 85:00) Live: Granada 8/20/2006
As many readers will know, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra had its origins in 1993, in a London hotel lobby where the late Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim met for the first time. As this improbable friendship developed, the two men began exploring how the ideological chasm between Arabs and Israelis might be bridged. Six years later, the orchestra they envisioned, consisting of young Israeli and Arab musicians, had its first rehearsals in Weimar. Since 2002, the orchestra has made a permanent home in Seville. After many concerts and several recordings—of Beethoven (Warner 63972); of Beethoven, Elgar, and Mozart (Warner 62791); and of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, and Sibelius (Warner 62190)—Barenboim continues to devote his time and considerable energies to the ensemble’s cultivation. In this recent Euroarts release, filmed live on August 20, 2006, the splendid courtyard of the Alhambra Palace in Granada is the setting for a concert in which the Egyptian double-bassist Nabil Shehata and Israeli cellist Kyril Zlotnikov are featured soloists.
From the mysterious opening of Leonore No. 3, through the succession of trumpet calls, to the exultant finale, this performance unfolds with taught excitement, embellished by stunning playing by the wind band. Beethoven’s instrumental distillation of the essence of Fidelio seldom fails to make an impact. But it will be a cool viewer indeed whose eyes don’t well when viewing this near-ideal performance.
Giovanni Bottesini, the conductor and double-bass virtuoso, fashioned his Fantasia on Themes by Rossini from three songs from the Soirées musicales: “La Danza,” “La Serenata,” and “Li Marinari.” While Shehata and Zlotnikov toss off the bravura passages with taste and brilliance, it’s their hand-in-glove ensemble in the extended cantabile sections that is most impressive.
Watching Barenboim in the Brahms symphony, I sensed for the first time his indebtedness, if one may call it that, to Furtwängler, a conductor he is said to particularly admire. References to Furtwängler have become a veritable refrain in reviews of Barenboim’s conducting, but until now the aptness of the analogy had eluded me. It was not any similarity of interpretive choices that struck me, but rather the extraordinary focus and unity of intent, as though conductor and orchestra shared heart and mind. Comparison with the opening measures of Furtwängler’s Brahms C-Minor Symphony (Preiser 90432) provides a good case in point.
As I viewed these tremendously moving performances for the second and third time, I wondered what my reaction might be experiencing them blind, so to speak—the way orchestral players often audition, behind a screen, their identities concealed. For certainly the creation of West-Eastern Divan (its name taken from an 1819 collection of Goethe’s poems) was a political act, one aimed at assuaging a long-standing conflict that, by extension, continues to affect millions of lives far from the Middle East. Witnessing a group of young Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, and Jordanian musicians sharing music stands with their colleagues from Israel, under the baton of an Israeli citizen, is powerful stuff. But what is also powerful, and mightily so, is their playing. I am convinced that, if I hadn’t known the conductor or ensemble responsible for these performances, the commitment, passion, and sheer polish of their music-making would be obvious and quite remarkable. Very highly recommended.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (all)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 112 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 Read less
Offer the DVD of the orchestra origins for free!January 10, 2012By Bill Woollam See All My Reviews"I once had an opportunity to view over the knowledge network, the origins of the West-Eastern Divan, how the young musicians first came together from Palestine, Israel, Spain, Egypt and a variety of other countries, how difficult and challenging that was for those young students who had to come to terms with their own particular forms of national indoctrination, and how breaking through their fears and national belief systems finally brought all the international students together in a final and historical orchestral performance in Ramalla, Palestine. I was brought to tears while witnessing this amazing and heart warming true story of youth who rose above the obstacles, and came to their own awakening through musical comradeship which transcended national borders and dogma.
This film needs to put out their for free. That story needs to be shared across the globe via Youtube. I don't care whether you make money on it or not, the story is a story of creating peace through music. To keep this story limited to only those who'd buy the DVD....is a sad thought indeed.