Istanbul Presenters Cancel, Then Restore, Concert by Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Classic Arts News   Istanbul Presenters Cancel, Then Restore, Concert by Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
An Istanbul performance by conductor Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, scheduled for tomorrow, was reported yesterday as cancelled by its sponsors but will now go ahead as planned.

According to the Turkish online newspaper, the concert was initially cancelled because a group of Istanbul Jewish businessmen who were providing financial support for the performance withdrew their funding because of comments by Barenboim criticizing Israel's human rights record. (Exactly which comments drew the funders' anger isn't made clear in the article, though Barenboim, who is himself Israeli, has publicly criticized the Israeli government's practices in the occupied West Bank more than once.)

In response, Zaman reports, Barenboim offered to waive his own fee if the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), the concert's presenter, would cover the orchestra's travel expenses, estimated at $100,000.

Ultimately, the funding group, called the Congregation of Turkish Jews, changed its mind and decided to support the concert. Zaman says that, according to reports in the Turkish press, the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon eased the concerns of the Congregation over the concert.

The European Jewish Press says that Barenboim does not believe that there will be a military solution to the war in Lebanon. "If we do not find a way to live together side-by-side then we will destroy each other ... The destiny of both peoples is indivisible. For hundreds of years, the only chapter of Jewish history was the moral chapter. Now, for the most part, that is gone," the paper quotes him as telling the Berliner Morgenpost.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was co-founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American writer Edward Said (who died in 2003) to bring together Arab and Israeli musicians. They are currently on a European tour that began last week with a "peace concert" before 6,000 people on Madrid's Plaza Mayor. As the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah raged in recent weeks, tensions among the musicians themselves ran high, according to reports from the BBC, though Barenboim himself, along with Said's widow Mariam, ultimately calmed feelings enough to proceed with the rehearsals and performances.

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