Unified by Tchaikovsky (Los Angeles Times)

(Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

Daniel Barenboim’s players subsume their Israeli and Arab identities to make beautiful music.
By Mark Swed
Times Staff Writer

August 22, 2005

The score of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony looks like that of any other large orchestral piece from the late 19th century. On top of the first page is a melancholy melody for a solo clarinet in its lowest register, which the gloomy composer associated with his resignation before Fate.

Below are chords languidly scattered among the strings. Gradually, more instruments enter, and the pages fill up with notes — dotted notes, notes held together with arcs, rows of fast 16th notes and furious passages with lines through the stems. To play those tremolo passages, musicians must shake ferociously.
But the score of a symphonic chestnut is hardly the first place most people, especially strategists in Washington or Jerusalem, would look for a secretly encoded road map for peace. Nor have I yet heard — in answer to one of the most pressing questions in the world, “What next for Gaza?” — “Why not pick up Daniel Barenboim’s new recording of the Tchaikovsky on Warner Classics?”

Still, as Israeli settlers are being forced out of the Gaza Strip and Israeli troops are planning to leave, no one seems to know exactly what it will take for Israelis and Palestinians to get along. And it was in response to much the same question that Barenboim and the Palestinian cultural and literary theorist (and sometime music critic) Edward Said first held a workshop for young musicians six years ago in Weimar, Germany. Half of those musicians came from Israel and the other half came from 10 Arab nations and the Palestinian territories. (more…)