Conductor Daniel Barenboim made his orchestra West-Eastern Divan for the first time on Wednesday night in Washington under the joint sponsorship of Washington Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center. The ensemble, taking its name from Gete's book from 1819, was the idea of Barenboim, the Argentine Israeli and late Palestinian American intellectual Edward Said. They anticipated an orchestra consisting of young Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians to promote "coexistence and intercultural dialogue". Since 1999, the orchestra has emerged as a group that can maintain its presence in almost every artistic company, which shows just how powerful musical activism can be.
The program consisted of two generous romantic orchestral blockbusters, Don Quixote of Richard Strauss and Fifth Symphony of Tchaikovsky, preceded by a short promotional video before the orchestra went on the scene.
The West-Eastern divan took some time to warm up. Once it was, it was clear that the winds on the hard, front-and-center wind and the uneven sound sound array were part of the package. Don Quixote is a virtual cello in the form of a symphony song. Kian Soltani is a wonderful cello cellist with great intonation and clarity of sound that extends to the highest instrument registry. His portrayal of Cervantes' hero, as Strauss contemplated, was convincingly trapped by humor and pathos.
Barenboim conducts Peto Tchaikovsky, who could have been placed as "Tchaikovsky without Tears" 40 years ago. It is an approach that hinders everything that could be signified as an emotional surplus or unusual sensuality in favor of robust male concentration on a formal structure, firmly cut lines and textures without meaninglessness. This was a business, slightly impatient reading that barely caught a break between the movements. Of course, the endlessness of Tchaikovsky's genius can include countless different interpretations, but this has emerged as more aggressive than dramatic, stentory or expressive.