The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded in 1999 in Weimar by conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and author and scholar Edward Said. In its first incarnation, it was a workshop for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians, and that grew into the now world-renowned orchestra.
The West-Eastern Divan aims to promote equality, harmony and understanding between musicians, against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Named after a set of poems by the great Romantic writer Goethe, the orchestra is not, says Barenboim, for peace but ‘an orchestra against ignorance’.
The ensemble, whose members come from a wealth of Middle Eastern countries, has performed all over the world, including at the Lucerne Festival and the BBC Proms. One goal, still yet to be realised, is to play in every country represented by its performers.
While the orchestra itself is based in Seville, Spain, in 2016, the Barenboim-Said Academy opened in Berlin, Germany. In its first year, the conservatoire welcomed 90 musicians through its doors, for a music-humanities degree that builds on the spirit and philosophy of the orchestra.