The West-Eastern Divan Ensemble, led by the orchestra’s concertmaster Michael Barenboim, draws upon players of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
Founded in 1999, the orchestra’s origins lie in the conversations between its creators, Edward W. Said and Daniel Barenboim. Over the course of their friendship, the Palestinian author-scholar and Israeli conductor-pianist discussed ideas on music, culture, and humanity. In their exchanges, they realized the urgent need for an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The opportunity to do so came when Barenboim and Said initiated a workshop for young musicians using their experience as a model. This evolved into the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that global audiences know today. The group is comprised of Arab and Israeli members, defying fierce political divides in the Middle East and globally. Through its work and existence, the orchestra demonstrates that bridges can be built to encourage people to listen to the narrative of the other.
The West-Eastern Divan Ensemble is the most recent imprint of this project and brings the highly praised artistry of the orchestra into an intimate chamber-music format. Founded by Michael Barenboim to mark the orchestra’s 20th anniversary, the ensemble gives audiences an opportunity to experience the musicians’ unique artistry and personality up close. The group embarked on its first tour in early 2020, appearing at venues across the U.S. In October and November 2022, the musicians were heard in Berlin, Munich, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, and Budapest performing a program of works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Pierre Boulez, as well as a commission by French-Lebanese composer Benjamin Attahir. In February 2023, the ensemble returned to the US where they played several concerts at the East and West Coast, including the 92Y and the UN Headquarters in New York and Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.