Daniel Barenboim / West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Liszt: Les Préludes

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In 1999, conductor Daniel Barenboim and scholar Edward Said created the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to be a cultural bridge between young Israeli, Arab, and Iranian musicians, and the success of the enterprise has not only raised public awareness of their worthy cause, but also yielded some remarkable recordings. Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the orchestra's formation, Barenboim leads the orchestra in performances of two works linked to the city where the group held its first workshops, Weimar, where associations with Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt are still strong. The Symphonie fantastique and Les Préludes found success in that city, and Liszt's generous encouragement of Berlioz led to many visits and concerts in the years between 1843 and 1863. As a symbol of cooperation and collaboration, the pairing of these works seems to hold special meaning for the orchestra, and Barenboim appears to have inspired the musicians to play with great enthusiasm and commitment. While his interpretations are wholly Romantic in approach and shaped to have maximum impact, Barenboim takes pains to let the inner parts of the music show through, thereby giving individual players many chances to shine. Judged on the response of the audience, these concert performances were enormous successes, and the West-Eastern Divan has clearly grown in sophistication and capability over the decade since its inception. However, because of the vagaries of live recording, the reproduction is somewhat variable, depending on where the sound is directed. This sometimes gives the horns an exaggerated presence, and in soft passages puts the violins at a disadvantage, but overall the sound is adequate and doesn't seriously affect enjoyment.

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