About Beethoven For All
“Beethoven’s music is universal,” says Daniel Barenboim. “Everywhere in the world – it speaks to all people.” For that reason the master’s symphonies are a central focus of his work this year with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
At the heart of this all-embracing project are a series of recordings of Beethoven’s complete symphonies, piano concerti and piano sonatas with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Berlin Staatskapelle, along with Barenboim at the keyboard. As well as the physical formats all releases will also be available in standard digital and Mastered for iTunes formats.
The project also includes a world tour, which began in August 2010 at the legendary Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and will cover four continents by 2013, including engagements in Doha (Qatar), South Korea, China, Europe and the USA (Carnegie Hall).
The world finds itself in a time of upheaval. In the Arab lands an unprecedented struggle for self-determination is taking place. Seldom before have the words of Beethoven the Sturm und Drang revolutionary been more relevant. But Edward Said, a great Beethoven expert in his own right, valued the Bonn master not only for his transcendental qualities. He repeatedly pointed out that the universality of his music stems from its expression of the highest human ideals. Music for Beethoven begins only after the revolution – at the point when the question becomes how all people can leave together in peace. Daniel Barenboim knows about this spirit of optimism and idealism, about revolutionary force and the power of visions – that is also why his Beethoven captures the spirit of the times and sounds so topical and so modern.
Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He received his first piano lessons at age five, and was first taught by his mother. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. He gave his first public concert when he was seven. In 1952, he moved with his parents to Israel.
At age eleven, Daniel Barenboim took part in conducting classes in Salzburg under Igor Markevich. In that summer, he also met Wilhelm Furtwängler and played for him. Furtwängler then wrote, “The eleven-year-old Daniel Barenboim is a phenomenon.” In 1955 and 1956, Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
At age ten, Daniel Barenboim gave his international debut performance as a solo pianist in Vienna and Rome; Paris (1955), London (1956), and New York (1957) then followed, where he played with Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has regularly toured Europe and the United States, but also South America, Australia, and the Far East.
In 1954, Daniel Barenboim began his recording career as a pianist. In the 1960s, he recorded Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with Otto Klemperer, Brahms’ Piano Concertos with Sir John Barbirolli, and all the Mozart piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, this time serving both as pianist and conductor.
Ever since his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. Between 1975 and 1989, he was chief conductor of the Orchestre de Paris, where he often performed contemporary works by composers such as Lutosławski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, and Takemitsu and others.
Daniel Barenboim gave his debut as an opera conductor at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In 1981, he conducted for the first time in Bayreuth, where he would conduct every summer for eighteen years, until 1999. During this time, he conducted Tristan und Isolde, Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
From 1991 until June 2006, Daniel Barenboim was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The musicians of the orchestra have since named him Honorary Conductor for Life. In 1992, he became General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where he was also artistic director from 1992 to August 2002. In 2000, the Staatskapelle Berlin voted him chief-conductor-for-life. Both, in the opera as well as on the concert stage, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin have acquired a large repertoire of complete symphonic works (work cycles). The cyclical performance of all operas by Richard Wagner at the Staatsoper as well as the presentation of all the symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann was met worldwide with praise; it was recorded on CD and performed in Berlin, Vienna, New York and Tokyo. At the FESTTAGE 2007 Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez performed the complete cycle of symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Beside the great classic-romantic repertoire, Daniel Barenboim continues to focus on contemporary music. The premiere of Elliot Carter’s only opera What next? took place at the Staatsoper. The Staatskapelle’s concert repertoire regularly includes compositions of Boulez, Rihm, Mundry, Carter and Höller for example.
Musicians of the Staatskapelle have been actively involved in setting up a music kindergarten in Berlin that was initiated and founded by Daniel Barenboim in September 2005. In February 2003, Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle and the chorus of the Staatsoper were awarded a Grammy for their recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser. In March 2003, he and the Staatskapelle were honoured with the Wilhelm-Furtwängler-Preis.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim founded together with the Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said the West-Eastern Divan Workshop, which brings together young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries every summer to play music together. The workshop seeks to enable dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East and promote the experience of playing music together. In summer 2005, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra presented a concert of historical significance in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, which was broadcast on television and recorded on DVD. Musicians of the Staatskapelle Berlin have participated as teachers in this project since its foundation.
Daniel Barenboim also initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories which includes the foundation of a music kindergarten as well as a Palestinian youth orchestra.
In 2002, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said were awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Prize in the Spanish town of Oviedo for their peace efforts. In November of the same year, Daniel Barenboim was awarded the Tolerance Prize by the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing as well as Germany’s Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern. In March 2004, Daniel Barenboim was honoured for his work of reconciliation in the Middle East by the Deutscher Koordinierungs-Rat with the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medaille. In May 2004, he was awarded the Israeli Wolf Foundation’s Arts Prize in the Knesset in Jerusalem. In the spring of 2006, Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the “Kulturgroschen”, the highest honour awarded by the Deutscher Kulturrat. In May he received the international Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis in a ceremony at the Musikverein in Vienna. That same month, he won the Peace Prize by the Korn and Gerstenmann Foundation in Frankfurt. Between January and April 2006 Mr. Barenboim delivered the BBC Reith Lectures, and in September 2006 he gave six lectures at Harvard University as Charles Eliot Norton Professor. In 2007 he was awarded with the Hessische Friedenspreis and the Goethe-Medal. In the same year he received the honorary doctorate of the University of Oxford and was given “la Cravate de Commandeur dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur” by former French President Jacques Chirac. In October 2007, Daniel Barenboim was also awarded with the prize for art and culture “Praemium Imperiale” by the Japanese imperial family. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, named Daniel Barenboim UN messanger of peace in September 2007. In Mai 2008 he received in Buenos Aires the award “Ciudadano Ilustre”. In February 2009 Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the Moses Mendelssohn Medal for his engagement for international understanding. 2010 he received a “Honorary Degree in Music” of the Royal Academy of Music London. In February 2010 he was honoured with the “Deutsche Kulturpreis” for his lifelong musical activities. In October 2010 the “Westfälischer Friedenspreis” followed. Recently Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the Herbert-von-Karajan-Musikpreis and the Otto-Hahn-Friedensmedaille. In February 2011 he received the title “Grand officier dans l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur” from the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In July followed in London Wigmore Hall the honour “Outstanding Musician Award of the Critics’ Circle”. In the same month he was awarded by Queen Elizabeth II. as “Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (KBE). In October he was honoured with the Willy-Brandt-Preis.
With the beginning of the season 2007/08 Daniel Barenboim began a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as “Maestro Scaligero” where he conducts opera and concert performances as well as he plays in chamber music concerts. In the autumn of 2011 he was appointed Music Director of the famous opera house.
Daniel Barenboim has published several books: the autobiography A Life in Music, and Parallels and Paradoxes, which he wrote together with Edward Said. In autumn 2007, his new book La Musica sveglia il tempo was published in Italy. The book has been available in German under the title Klang ist Leben – Die Macht der Musik since August 2008. With Patrice Chéreau he published in December 2008 Dialoghi su musica e teatro. Tristano e Isotta.
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said created a workshop for young musicians from Israel, Palestine and several Arab countries to promote coexistence and intercultural dialogue. They named the orchestra after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems entitled “West-Eastern Divan”, a central work for the evolution of the concept of world culture.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s first sessions took place in Weimar and Chicago. In 2002, it found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it is generously supported by the regional government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucia). An equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians form the base of the orchestra, together with a group of Spanish members. Three different religious orientations are represented amongst the musicians. The Arab members of the orchestra belong to Christian and Muslim faith. They meet each summer in Seville for a workshop, where rehearsals are complemented by lectures and discussions and followed by an international concert tour.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has proved time and again that music can break down barriers previously considered insurmountable. The only political aspect that prevails in the work of the WEDO is the conviction that there is no military solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are inextricably linked. Through its work and existence the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to the narrative of the other.
While music alone cannot resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, it grants the individual the right and obligation to express himself fully while listening to his neighbour. Based on this notion of equality, cooperation and justice for all, the orchestra represents an alternative model to the current situation in the Middle East.
The Orchestra’s repertoire expands beyond symphonic works to opera and chamber music performances. Concert highlights have included performances at Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Musikverein in Vienna, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the Hagia Eirene Museum in Istanbul, the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires as well as a concert in honour of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York in December 2006. The orchestra is a regular guest at the BBC Proms and festivals such as Salzburg or Lucerne.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has released a number of highly acclaimed CDs/DVDs. These include live recordings of Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 / Verdi: ouverture from La Forza del Destino / Sibelius: Valse Triste (2004); the emblematic concert at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah (2005); Beethoven: 9th Symphony (2006); Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat / Beethoven’s Leonore Ouverture (2007); and Schönberg: Variations for Orchestra / Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 (2011). The documentary “Knowledge is the Beginning” by Paul Smaczny has won several awards, among them an International Emmy (2006).
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra 2012
In 2012, the orchestra will continue its focus on a cycle of all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s symphonies, coinciding with the release of a boxed set of the complete symphonies by Decca Classics in May. Also in May, the WEDO will to Qatar for the third time for a week of concerts, workshops and other events. The Summer Tour in July will take the musicians to several European venues. Highlights will be a large-scale open air concert at the Waldbühne in Berlin and a performance of the full Beethoven cycle at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms.
Support the WEDO
An important part of the funds needed to continue the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s unique project is provided by its loyal audiences: All proceeds from the orchestra’s tours are used to realize its vision.
The Orchestra and the projects it supports also rely on the generosity of individuals and corporations to finance many of its activities and scholarships. Please contribute generously. –
Financial support for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is channeled through four foundations: the Andalusian Public Foundation Barenboim-Said in Spain, the Daniel Barenboim Stiftung in Germany, the Barenboim-Said Foundation in the USA, and the West-Eastern Divan Trust in the UK. Special thanks are due to the Government of the autonomous Region of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucia) for its generous long-term support and hospitality in Sevilla.
The four foundations work in concert to raise money and organise the Orchestra workshops and tours, but also to develop various music education projects in Israel, Palestine and Spain. The Edward Said Kindergarten, a joint-venture with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, opened its doors in Ramallah in October 2004. The Barenboim-Said Centre in Ramallah and the Barenboim-Said Conservatories in Nazareth and Jaffa provide instrumental and singing lessons and organize yearly orchestra workshops; classes are open to all students irrespective of social or ethnic background. Another area of activities is a concert series in Palestine, which started in February 2009. The programme so far has included performances by internationally renowned performers such as Elisabeth Leonskaja or Emmanuel Pahud as well as recitals by teachers, members of the WEDO, and students.
All four foundations are recognized as non-profit organizations under their respective jurisdictions and donations are deductible to the full extent permitted under the Spanish, German, US and UK tax codes. Tax deductions can also be arranged for several other countries. Please contact us for details.
If you’ve ever fought down an unworthy temptation, or triumphed over impulses you’d rather not have, you’ll be able to understand Beethoven’s music. If you’ve ever felt your soul stirred by the sublime beauty of nature, you’ll understand Beethoven’s music. If you’ve ever wept alone for loss, or laughed in a crowd till your sides hurt, you’ll understand Beethoven’s music. For if ever there was a composer who looked into the beating heart of what it means to be human, and then expressed what he saw — in all its complexity — it is Beethoven.
“Complexity” is also an appropriate word to use when describing a man who was a tangle of contradictions. His career as a piano virtuoso and conductor depended on a perfect sense of hearing, and yet from his twenties onwards he suffered from debilitating deafness. He longed for companionship, but fought bitterly with every one of his friends — and then often made up with them soon after. He became the legal guardian of his nephew, and insisted that the young man behave with proper decorum; but he himself lived in levels of squalor that shocked all who knew him. He fell in love with only the most unattainable, high-born women, and his feelings were never fully reciprocated. He was a man who certainly didn’t make life easy for himself. And yet, just listen to the playful vigour of the Scherzo from Symphony No.3, or the exquisite melody which seems to smile through tears in the slow movement from the “Emperor” Piano Concerto. He may have found life difficult, and yet it is clear that he loved it too.
He was born in the German city of Bonn in December 1770. His father, a music teacher and tenor, quickly recognised his son’s remarkable musical talent and pushed him to perform in public and to begin composing. But it was a difficult childhood. Beethoven’s father was a fearsome man who flew into brutal rages when drunk, and after the death of his wife in 1787, his bouts with the bottle became worse than ever. The loss of his mother was a terrible blow to the young Beethoven, as she had tried to shield her family from the worst of her husband’s behaviour. But the problem was more than just an emotional one: the teenager was also suddenly forced to become the head of the family. In 1789, aged just eighteen, he went to his father’s employer and demanded half his salary so that the family could be provided for. Responsibility came early and came hard to the young man. Understandably, no great grief was felt when Beethoven Senior died in 1792.
All this was taking place against a background of enormous political change. The French Revolutionary Wars were rolling over Europe, and the radical Beethoven thrilled to ideas of freedom and equality. But he was also making artistic progress. He met the composer Haydn in 1792 and, supported by noble patrons who were impressed with his music, he moved to Vienna to study with the older composer.
At first his compositions were based on models by Mozart and Haydn in a style we now call “Classical”. (The word has two distinct meanings. As used here, it refers to a style of late-eighteenth-century music which favours order, clarity and formal elegance. This is a different use from the catch-all term “classical music” which means the opposite of pop music.) To get a flavour of Beethoven’s work during this period, try the long-breathed melody of the “Pathétique” Sonata, or the cheerful finale to the Piano Concerto No.1 in C, or the straightforward urgency of Piano Concerto No.3. The famous “Moonlight” Sonata comes from this period too. There is drama and feeling here, but it obeys the rules. It is formally constrained. This was about to change. By 1796 Beethoven was already going deaf, and in 1802 he moved to a small village outside Vienna in order to treat his malady. When he realised that the situation was hopeless, he wrote a powerful document, known as “The Heiligenstadt Testament”, in which he describes how his love of music has prevented him from committing suicide, and how frustrated he has become at his own irascible temper. It is a moving account of a soul at war with itself, struggling to find peace.
These internal battles resulted in an even greater maturity of feeling and drama in his works, and he began to break formal rules. Now the stakes seem higher than ever; doubts must be faced squarely, joy heroically wrung from impossible odds, fate battled. These struggles, which Beethoven alone knew how to render in sound, touch a universal chord: the famous opening four notes of Symphony No.5 were used by the Allies during radio broadcasts in World War II to symbolise the struggle for victory. It is a mark of Beethoven’s appeal that a German composer’s music was used by Germany’s enemies. But if Beethoven’s sense of drama increased, so did his pleasure in lightness and fun. The first movement of Symphony No.6 is a perfect depiction of joy at arriving in the countryside, and it’s hard not to smile at the giggly trills at the beginning of the Rondo of Piano Concerto No.4.
It is a testament to Beethoven’s humanity that all the works mentioned above can be enjoyed as deeply by someone with no prior knowledge of music as by specialists. Later in his career, this changed somewhat. Some of Beethoven’s pieces started to puzzle his contemporaries as he broke more and more “rules”, and even today they can be hard for novices to follow. But then, in 1824 (three years before his death) Beethoven presented his monumental final symphony, No.9, which speaks of joy and love in the most straightforward way to all who hear it. The final movement, given here, even uses the text of a poem called “Ode to Joy”. It makes a fine memorial for a composer who triumphed heroically over his deafness, and who found no darkness that could not be illuminated by the power of music.