Daniel Barenboim is interviewed in last weekend’s Financial Times about the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
I ask him whether, as a musician sticking his head into politics, he fears being dismissed as naive. Barenboim retorts that he is “not trying to tell the world what to do. I would accept what my critics say if the solution they had in mind was practical, but we have seen this is not so. If you are sick and have tried every conventional medicine and it hasn’t worked, you have to try alternative medicine. I don’t see how you can be prime minister [of Israel] and pursue the same policies we have had these last 60 years and pretend it is working. Every military victory has left Israel in a worse position. The Six Day War made us feel good for 24 hours but the hangover has lasted 42 years.”
The article also features excerpts from Elena Cheah’s new book An Orchestra Beyond Borders: Voices of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra:
“We knew that if we performed Wagner with the Divan, no matter where, it would be all over the news in Israel. I was not afraid of bad publicity, but I was concerned that we, as a group, would be taken for kids who didn’t respect the memory of our own people … For us Israelis it was a big deal … I remember discussions with Nassib Al Ahmadieh about Wagner’s music and the Holocaust. There were sleepless nights; people shouting, saying they would never play Wagner. – Asaf Maoz, Violinist