Barenboim to give concert in Gaza

Performance to be ‘sign of solidarity’ with local residents, says long-controversial Israeli conductor.

Daniel Barenboim_311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Daniel Barenboim_311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Acclaimed pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim, will conduct a peace concert for Gaza on Tuesday in Gaza, accompanied by musicians from Europe’s leading orchestras, including the Staatskapelle Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and Orchestra of La Scala di Milano.
Barenboim, who has won multiple Grammy awards and was a child piano prodigy, was the musical director of both the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together young Arab and Israeli musicians.
While his upcoming concerts in May include Milan, Rome and Vienna, Barenboim will first conduct the orchestra at the Al Mathaf Cultural House in Gaza in front of 400 invited guests.
Though Barenboim supports a multitude of music education programs in Gaza and the West Bank, there will be no Gazan musicians performing on Tuesday.
“We are very happy to come to Gaza,” Barenboim said in a statement. “We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza.”
The concert was organized by the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network and the Al Mathaf Cultural House, in cooperation with the office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Barenboim is a UN Messenger of Peace – one of 12 celebrities chosen to draw attention to the UN’s work around the world – including George Clooney, Yo-Yo Ma, Stevie Wonder, Elie Wiesel and Charlize Theron.
The concert has been under preparation only for the past two of weeks.
Barenboim has said he was “overwhelmed” by the response of musicians and their enthusiasm for joining him in the concert on such short notice.
In 1999, Barneboim cofounded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Palestinian- American Columbia University Professor Edward Said.
The orchestra has continued, despite Said’s 2003 death, and now has permanent residence in Seville, Spain. Barenboim also founded the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, which has three branches in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, and 520 students. He also runs music education programs in Nazareth and Gaza.
A UN source said there are no future concerts planned, but applauded Barenboim’s initiative in planning the concert and “the rare event that a full orchestra performs here.”
Barenboim has provoked controversy for his strong criticism of Israel, including harsh denunciations of Operation Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara incident.
According to reports, Barenboim initially wanted to hold a concert for peace in Gaza in April 2010, but the Israeli government denied a formal request from the Spanish government.
Barenboim was awarded honorary Spanish citizenship following his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, and has an honorary Palestinian passport that he received in 2008.