Tune in to Classical MPR Sunday, February 3 at 1 p.m. to hear Carnegie Hall Live, featuring the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with conductor Daniel Barenboim.
This promises to be a special concert on several levels. On one level, it's purely about the music — it's Barenboim conducting Beethoven's Symphony No. 2 and Symphony No. 9... so there's that. However, in light of current events in Syria and around the Middle East, I suspect there will also be a particular resonance.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is made up of young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries. They not only play music together, they spend time talking about politics, nationality, ethnicity, family and history. For many of them, it's their first encounter with people from "the other side." Over the 13 years that the orchestra has existed, bonds have been forged across enemy lines — bonds built on the power of music, listening to each other and shared experience.
What will the Ode to Joy mean to this particular group of musicians right now?
"O friends, no more these sounds! Let us sing more cheerful songs, More full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity... Thy power re-unites all that custom has divided, All men become brothers, Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created an abiding friendship... Join our song of praise; those who cannot must creep away from our circle.
You millions, I embrace you. A kiss for all the world! Brothers, above the starry canopy There must dwell a loving father. World, do you know your creator? Seek Him in the heavens; Above the stars he must dwell."