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Conducting Through the Pain

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 14, 2006 4:19PM

conductoraug06.JPGDaniel Barenboim has left Chicago, but he hasn’t stopped thinking big. Conducting his multicultural, multi-faith West-Eastern Divan Orchestra across Europe this week, Barenboim is taking a stand against war in the Middle East and, since 1998, has provided an example of how Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs from across the region can work together. But the commendable project isn’t exactly a musical utopia. The tours have been outside the Middle East and certain musicians won’t develop friendships across the divide, afraid of how that will look back home. Prior to this week’s European tour, Barenboim drafted a statement condemning the violence in Israel and Lebanon. After intense debate, the ensemble accepted it without amendment and the orchestra played to rave reviews.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s two-and-a-half year search for a new musical director presses on. CSO leadership can’t provide a definitive time frame for when a successor will be hired and have kept a tight lid on their candidate list. They’re hardly in crisis mode—a prolonged search is to be expected at a major institution, with their counterparts in Detroit still looking after four years.

In the short run, musical quality shouldn’t suffer. The CSO’s first post-Barenboim season looks promising enough, with two internationally revered conductors leading the way, new pieces commissioned by the MusicNOW program, and CSO premieres of work by Wynton Marsalis, Wolfgang Rihm, and Joseph Haydn among others. And the hype will only build to next month’s Opening Night Gala featuring Yo Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble.

Image via the BBC