Mstation Classical Reviews

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Mon, 01 May 2006

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No 5, Verdi, Sibelius

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No 5 in b minor Op64 [44.59]
Guiseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Overture La Forza del Destino [8.02]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Valse Triste Op44 [5.15

Bonus Disc - DVD of The Geneva Concert [59.00]; Documentary on the
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra [33.00]; Interview with Daniel Barenboim
and Edward Said [83.00].

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim
rec Aug 2004, The Victoria Hall, Geneva, Switzerland. Live Recording.
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 62190-5

Occasionally there is a music project that is based on so laudable an idea and carried out with such exemplary aplomb that one cannot help but stand back in awe and gaze. Such is the concept that results in this disc. We know that Barenboim is a great musician, but to be able to pull together as unlikely sounding a group as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and make them play like this is nothing less than miraculous. The orchestra is comprised entirely of young musicians. Nothing so unusual in that; there are plenty of international youth orchestras (e.g. The Mahler Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abado, the European Union Youth Orchestra under just about anybody famous that you can name) which give the great concert house denizens of the European capitals a run for their money. The remarkable thing here is that the players are drawn in equal numbers from Israel and the Arab countries, including Palestine. A less likely combination for successful artistic partnership is hard to imagine. Maybe the thing that makes it possible at all is the fact that Barenboim and his co-founder the Palestinian writer the late Edward Said, have such political skill as to be able to get the Spanish to host the whole thing and, largely, to pay for it. The orchestra has gathered every summer since 1998 in Andalusia for workshops and rehearsals, learning as much about the pettiness of the long-running Israeli-Arab hatred as about the intricacies of Western symphonic music. Such is the fundraising that the West-Eastern Divan pays scholarships and bursaries for talented young Israeli or Arab musicians to study at conservatoria in Europe as well, and this has resulted in numerous graduates of the orchestra occupying permanent positions in orchestras around the Mediterranean.

So what of the music? Well, intensive rehearsal, the envy of most professional orchestras, top players in complete command of their techniques, and Daniel Barenboim. How bad could it possibly be? This is absolutely first rank Tchaikovsky playing in what is arguably his greatest work. Similarly the overture to La Forza del Destino simply buzzes with sinister energy. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra wowed the public at the 2005 Proms in London and they clearly wowed the audience in this live recording in Geneva the previous year. Phenomenal playing under inspired leadership. Highly recommendable, and the bonus DVD is interesting as well. ((c)Peter Wells 2006)

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