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main index © Jeff Matthews entry Aug 2008
The Ravello Festival used to be called the Wagner Festival, a music event held (for the first time in 1953) in honor of the German composer, who visited the area in 1880 (see this link). The event has now gone well beyond presenting Wagner’s music. This year, the whole shebang runs 127 days (!)—from late June through late October and, besides music, includes, art shows, dance, photographic exhibits, discussions and film.
highlight for me so far has been the appearance of Daniel Barenboim
and his youth orchestra (average age around 21), the West-Eastern Divan
Orchestra. The name is from the title of
Goethe’s last volume of poetry, West-östlicher Divan, a collection of ecumenical poetry in
praise of the unity of east and west and inspired by
the verse of Persian poet Hāfez.
(“Divan” is a Farsi word meaning a collection of
poetry. And all this time you thought the great
German eclectic’s talents extended, yea, even unto
Music makes the world go round
orchestra is the brain-child of pianist-conductor
Barenboim and Palestinian-born writer and
Columbia University professor Edward Said (who
passed away in 2003). The unlikely (unfortunately)
combination of a Jewish musician and a Palestinian
writer working together to promote peaceful
co-existence in the Middle East resulted in the first
West-Eastern Divan Workshop. It took place in Weimar
in 1999 and involved young
musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from Egypt,
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel. The
workshop was held in Chicago in 2001 and since 2002
has had a permanent base in Seville, Spain. Following
each workshop, the orchestra goes on tour; the two
concerts in Ravello this summer are the only
appearances in Italy on the 2008 European Tour.
Throughout its existence, the young musicians have
been supported by financial grants and musical
instruction from some of the world’s finest musicians.
The orchestra is the subject of a recent documentary
film, Knowledge is the Beginning,
produced and directed by Paul Smaczny.
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