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Barenboim, 70 tomorrow, launches music academy for the Middle East

He has raised 20 million Euros from the German Bundestag and another 8.5  million from private donors.

What a birthday present to give the world’s biggest trouble spot!

Read on (auf Deutsch)

photo: EMI

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  1. This is wonderful. Perhaps music will save the world.

  2. Deepest respect for Daniel Barenboim. He is a man of the deed on top of the word, and it’s a very good deed. Bravo, in the literal sense.

  3. Bravo. What a fine thing to do. I have the deepest respect for Mr. Barenboim.

  4. I don’t get it – an Academy will be founded in Berlin for Middle Eastern musicians and students? A center for the Divan Orchestra is conceivable but an Academy of Music based on the ethnic origin of the students, or rather a place to sort out their political differences is strange (teach what “philosophy”?) but perhaps more understandable as a publicity gimmick. Israelis have plenty of opportunities to meet with Arab students and vice versa at the Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities, including the Jerusalem Academy of Music of Dance that also has an oriental music department. Of course students and musicians all mix and associate with one another in any music school or university abroad.

    So these target groups don’t exactly need a “center” for getting them together and in fact, forcible association can breed more resentment than not. If people would not be carried away by the aura of self-righteousness in so-called peace initiatives, they would see how 20 milllion euro from the German government is yet another extravagant bleeding out of funds. One gets the impression that music alone would not be a magnet for drawing out money and sympathy but add “peace” to the package and you hook the public and their pockets too!

    • Teach what philosophy? I would guess in a music college they would teach the philosophy of humanism and peaceful collaboration. As you need it to make music with more than one player.
      “Alle Menschen werden Brüder …und wer’s nicht gekonnt der stehle weinend sich aus diesem Bund.”

      Regarding the TelAviv and Jerusalem departments: you are aware, that most Arabs can’t even travel there, right?
      I think setting up an institute on neutral ground therefore makes a lot of sense.

      • Arabs with Israeli ID”s can and do travel to any of the universities including Beersheva and Haifa. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem are the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and other good schools. Otherwise, Jews (not only Israelis) and Arabs from anywhere in the Middle East can and do meet up and make music anywhere in the world. So I still don’t get the point. “Play nice, children” is not a philosophy. It’s talking down to otherwise intelligent people.

        • You seem to be against the idea, but your argument doesn’t explain why. Obviously there are not enough places where people of semitic descent and of Jewish and Islamic faith peacefully coexist, if one considers the reality.

          The concept of Mr. Barenboim obviously is a holistic one, not to simply add another music school but to establish a platform for peaceful coexistence and use the arts to develop the spirit of humanism and collaboration with young people from both sides.

          Also one might take a more practical stance. With the financial troubles in Spain and threatening loss of public subsidies there, Barenboim is with this move also effectively relocating the East-Western-Divan project from Southern Spain to Germany.

        • P.S. How many % of all Arabs are Arabs with Israeli ID? Less than 1% ?

          • First of all, no top music school in the world rejects anyone on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Excellence is the only criterion. That’s all. So opportunities abound for getting together in New York, London, Paris… no special need to meet up in Berlin.
            A good question would be the proportion of Middle Easterners who prefer to play Oriental rather than Western music. I imagine it is quite high. The academies in Egypt, Turkey and Iraq are regarded highly for Oriental music. So there is plenty of activity to begin with.
            WIth regard to your other point about Arabs with Israeli ID’s, the latter happen to number about 20% of the population. Actually quite a few good Arab pianists have come from the North.

    • Were it true that the Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities provided the same opportunities as the Academy Barenboim is establishing, then you would be correct, but the reality is that the opportunities are not the same for the different populations, especially under the present Likud government, and anyway, the best education may now be in Europe, and who could argue with tutelage under Barenboim? More power to him. He is a great artist and has a transcendent vision.

      • What opportunities for whom? Can Middle Easterners (they are all not Arab: some are Armenian, Circassian, Turkish, Iranian) if they want to, and are qualified musicians, study anywhere in the world? Sure! A music school to foster coexistence between israelis and Arabs, in Berlin no less, is a bit lopsided considering the small proportion of the former versus the latter. And isn’t that what we are mainly talking about when “peace in the Middle East” is the pretext? If no one has noticed, the ‘peace racket’ is about the most profitable business on the planet these days. Music alone would not attract so much much money and attention. It is a certain path to sainthood.
        As for educational opportunities, the musicology departments of the Hebrew and Tel Aviv Universities are world class. (The Likud has nothing to do with preventing anyone from studying in any university if they don’t come strapped with bombs.) Performers are not necessarily grounded theoreticians either, although some are like Murray Perahia. And they are not necessarily philosophers either unless reducing everything to “play nice, children” is some sort of über transcendent philosophy.

  5. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I personally know an accomplished musician who played for several years in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim and is now a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in NYC. This young man is an Arab Christian, a native-born citizen of Israel with an Israel passport who speaks, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. His ethnic and religious make-up is hardly an exception in the Middle East. The peaceful cross-pollination of cultures is at the core of Barenboim’s mission, in my opinion. Cent’anni, maestro!

    • Mr. Fitzpatrick,

      A noble and well-expressed sentiment, but considering the legions of extraordinarily well-qualified unemployed and underemployed native born and trained US orchestral musicians – particularly flutists – many are questioning the MET’s decision to hire a predominantly foreign-born flute section, which I believe includes the gentleman you’ve mentioned. Of the MET’s 4 flutists, only the piccolo player is American.

      Are these players so much better than their American born and trained counterparts? Do they deserve what
      are among the highest paying orchestral jobs in the US while US citizens who are equally or more qualified are being locked out, enduring unemployment or piecing together work to make ends meet?

      It’s generally understood that the appointment of the gentleman you’ve mentioned was via his connection
      to one of the Principal players, with whom he studied – also a foreign-born player.

      It would be well and good for top US orchs. to lavish the best jobs on foreign born players if it worked the same way in other countries. But it doesn’t. Other countries generally protect their own musicians. If you’re a US musician, just try getting so much as an audition in the UK, for example.

      So it’s terrific that West-East opened a door of opportunity to this young man, but his job in the MET is one that could easily and probably should be occupied by an equally or even better qualified US citizen. I think it’s time for the MET to extend the same effort supporting US orch. players as it does commissioning operas by US composers, and publicly supporting US singers.

      A 4 person flute section in one of the best paying orch. jobs in the US with 3 foreign players? In NYC alone you could fill those jobs with world class players who are US citizens. Absurd.

      • This type of nationalistic thinking is frightening. Music shall not know such arbitrary limits as nations. The three concert masters of the most famous German orchestra, the Berlin Phil, are a Pole, a Japanese and a Jew.
        You are wrong that elsewhere is more nationalistic protectionism.

  6. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    To my knowledge, the Met is one of the few orchestras to hold all audition rounds, including the finals, behind a screen. The person to whom I am referring attended high school and college/conservatory in the USA and studied with the principal flutist of a major orchestra which is not in NYC. I also know American instrumentalists and singers performing and living in countries such as Spain, the UK, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Australia, Korea and many others. There are even Americans in the Berlin Phil. (for several years their principal violist was an American woman who is now principal of LA Phil). Should Americans stay home and only play in American orchestra and should musicians from other countries consider US opportunities off limits?

    I understand your point but don’t agree that the situation in the Met Orchestra flute section is absurd. Let’s agree to disagree.

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