Notes and Editorial Reviews
Formed in 1999, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is the brainchild of conductor Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said. It is a youth orchestra of musicians from Israel and many Arab nations, bringing together two often-conflicting cultures for a single, peaceful purpose. Since its inception, the orchestra has quickly gained respect and admiration far beyond what might be expected from a youth ensemble. This live 2007 recording represents the orchestra's first appearance on the Decca label.
Just as Barenboim brings together two divergent cultures, he also successfully joins two highly contrasting musical styles on this program. On one hand, there is Schoenberg's Op. 31 Variations for orchestra, one of the composers first
large-scale works based entirely on his twelve-tone system. It is a cerebrally conceived composition that nonetheless packs an emotional punch. On the flip side is Tchaikovsky's poignant, heart-on-the-sleeve Sixth Symphony with its passionate, despondent outer movements and joyous inner movements. In both cases, Barenboim's orchestra handles the scores with impeccable professionalism and musical integrity. Schoenberg's variations represent a technical challenge to even seasoned players, yet the West-Eastern Divan members execute it with surprising precision and polish. The Pathétique Symphony is treated to a wonderful depth of emotional understanding without ever seeming overwrought. Balance within the orchestra is managed nicely, and the excitement of live performance can be felt throughout.
– Mike D. Brownell, All Music Guide
"[Daniel Barenboim] here spearheads a disc that readily attests to his strengths as a conductor who can inspire orchestras to interpretative heights...a dazzling performance of the Variations Op 31… Barenboim's art here is to show how essentially musical it is, triggering traditional emotions of excitement, wistfulness and, dare one say, romantic yearning. The orchestra responds acutely to Barenboim's depth of understanding and the spectrum of colour that Schoenberg deploys...Barenboim also has a firm grip on the dramatic shape of Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony. An apt element of resignation emerges naturally from the contours and harmonies of the music, but there is defiant spirit, too. Barenboim inspires the orchestra to play magnificently, movingly and with palpable Tchaikovskian feeling throughout." – Geoffrey Norris, The Daily Telegraph (London)
"[A] splendid recording… [a] consummate harmonious communality in their interpretations of these two pieces… [The players] expertly embody both the exuberance of the penultimate movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 and the melancholy beauty of its framing outer sections." – Andy Gill, Independent (London) Read less
Works on This Recording
Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 by Arnold Schoenberg
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1926-1928; Berlin, Germany
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