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Wed Sep 11 07:55:21 MDT 2002
NY Times, Sept. 11, 2002
'Moonlight' and Mendelssohn in the West Bank
By SERGE SCHMEMANN
RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sept. 10 The old Steinway grand had seen better
days, but when Daniel Barenboim drew the first nostalgic notes of
Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata from it today, 200 neatly uniformed
Palestinian students froze in delight.
Music, and especially music of this caliber from a live Israeli master, is
not something that has often graced young lives more wrapped up in the
daily misery of curfews, roadblocks, dangers and hatreds.
Mr. Barenboim, the famed conductor and pianist, seemed forgiving of the
hoarse old instrument and the many television cameras with him on the
stage. The music was a message, which he spelled out after an ecstatic
ovation from the pupils.
"Each one of us has a responsibility to do what is right, and not to wait
for others to do it," he said. "My way is music. What I can do is play
music, play music for you, and maybe this way, in a very small way for
these few moments, we are able to build down the hatred that is so much in
His words sounded incontrovertible. But Mr. Barenboim's music has stirred
some sharp debate in Israel, most memorably when he led a German orchestra
in a piece by Wagner, Hitler's favorite composer, at an Israeli arts
festival in July 2001. Many in the audience walked out, and Mr. Barenboim
was accused of everything from insensitivity to "cultural rape."
Mr. Barenboim, who was born in Argentina, raised in Israel, and now divides
most of his time between Berlin and Chicago, has also been vocal in his
criticism of Israel's military crackdown on the Palestinians, often posting
his views on his Web site, daniel-barenboim.com. In March, while Israeli
troops were cracking down on Palestinian towns, Mr. Barenboim announced
that he would give a concert in Ramallah, the Palestinian headquarters in
the West Bank. The Israeli Army barred him from going, saying it could not
guarantee his security, and the concert was canceled.
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