Barenboim brings healing power of music near DMZ

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Barenboim brings healing power of music near DMZ

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Daniel Barenboim [YONHAP]

Despite wrapping up his Beethoven concerts yesterday at Imjingak, a park close to the Demilitarized Zone, Israeli-Argentine maestro Daniel Barenboim refused to describe himself as a standard-bearer for peace, and was keen to downplay the political implications of his visit.

But Barenboim, on his first visit to Korea in 27 years, could hardly have chosen a more symbolic venue to cap the five days of concerts during which he oversaw the complete cycle of Beethoven Symphonies.

Before raising his baton at Imjingak for the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the 68-year-old pianist-conductor responded in self-effacing fashion when reporters sought to add meaning to the concert, which took place only seven kilometers from the inter-Korean border.

“I don’t consider myself somebody promoting the message of peace,” he said at a press conference on Aug. 9. “I am doing what I am doing as a result of my belief and courage. What I am doing is not to win the favor of the general public or to be loved, like politicians do.”

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Barenboim at a dress rehearsal in Beijing on Aug. 5 [XINHUA/YONHAP]

He would not be drawn on inter-Korean politics because, “I don’t know enough about it,” he said, but added that “the lack of dialogue [between the Koreas] won’t help.”

Born in Argentina of Jewish-Russian descent, Barenboim has however made a point of commenting on political issues in past decades. He founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said. The ensemble was named after a collection of poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was designed to present a shared vision for potential Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.

It subsequently drew elite musicians not only from Israel and Palestine but also from neighboring countries such as Syria, Egypt, Iran and Jordan. Tyme Khleifi, a Palestinian violinist, and Guy Eshed, an Israeli flutist, sat next to each other at the press conference as representatives of the members. They acknowledged their emotional connections to certain political realities but also their differences of opinion.

This year, the orchestra has included Asia for the first time in its world tour itinerary. Having visited Doha and Europe, it held a concert in Shanghai before coming to Seoul. The orchestra next heads to Lucerne and Salzburg in Switzerland and Berlin.

The last time Barenboim visited the Korean capital was with the Paris Orchestra in 1984. “Korea has changed more than I have,” said the maestro, who continually stressed music’s power to bring people together amid political conflict.

“Music does not bring peace. Music cannot solve conflict. But it has the ability to involve people. When people have shared the musical experience, sometimes it makes the dialogue a little bit easier,” he said, adding that he wished Koreans from all corners of the peninsula could have attended.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

임진각 울려퍼진 ‘평화의 합창’… 바렌보임 손끝도 떨렸다


군사분계선에서 7㎞, 경기도 파주시 임진각에 15일 오후 베토벤의 ‘합창’교향곡이 울려 퍼졌다.

“가혹한 현실이 갈라 놓았던 자들을/ 신비로운 그대의 힘으로/ 다시 결합시키는도다.” 사랑과 화합의 노랫소리가 울렸다. 평화콘서트의 지휘봉을 잡은 다니엘 바렌보임(79)과 독창자인 소프라노 조수미는 “한국음악사에 남을 거대한 사건”이라고 감격했다.

이스라엘과 중동 지역 청년들이 어우러져 만든 ‘웨스트 이스턴 디반 오케스트라’와 함께 분단의 땅을 찾은 바렌보임은 “참 신비하지 않은가”라며 “한반도에서 이 음악을 연주하는 것이 특별하다”는 떨림을 전했다. 이날 객석에는 1만여 명의 청중이 들어차 고통과 반목으로 날카로웠던 역사적 현장이 음악의 힘으로 부드럽게 울렁거리는 모습을 지켜봤다. [임진각=사진공동취재단]

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