Sunday, April 30, 2006

Segev on Barenboim

Well, seems Haaretz's Tom Segev was there in the audience at YMCA to listen to Daniel Barenboim, almost like I (but I got to ask a question).

Here's his impressions:-

The grand piano standing on the YMCA stage in Jerusalem seemed to promise much, but Daniel Barenboim came here mostly to talk. The BBC invited him to give five radio lectures about music and life and Barenboim, as is his wont, also spoke repeatedly about Israelis and Palestinians. In contrast to the scandals that usually accompany his visits to Israel, this time he sounded almost conciliatory; the carefully selected audience loved him. Apparently, most Israelis have internalized his main message: The occupation hasn't brought Israel anything good and has to end. But the most acclaimed Israeli in the world today also turned out to be quite detached from what's going on now in Israel.

He speaks with great charm; he has nice ideas about the relationship between ear and eye, between language and music, and between silence and sound. He tosses in a joke here and there. He doesn't know that many child prodigies, he said, but he does know all their parents. No, there is no big difference between the audiences who come to his concerts in different countries: They all forget to turn off their cell phones. He has an opinion about the Oslo Accords: They failed because of the faulty relationship between content and time. The negotiations began suddenly, without preparation, and dragged on for too long, with too many interruptions. Barenboim comprehended this on the basis of his musical understanding, he said.

What happened in Oslo is this, said Barenboim - and he played the sonata's opening passage at a dizzying speed, skipped to the allegro, but just played one note and stopped. That's what the Oslo negotiations were like, he said. It was nice, but it didn't really explain Oslo, or the "Pathetique" for that matter, and who even knows if Beethoven would have supported the return of territories.

Barenboim told the BBC listeners that he is worried about Israel's future; the state won't survive long if it doesn't know how to integrate into the culture of the Middle East, he said, since Zionism is a European phenomenon and, in the eyes of the Arabs, Israel is a colonialist entity. To illustrate the European nature of Israeli society, he told this anecdote: When the violinist Jascha Heifetz came to play in Israel, the taxi driver asked him which cadenza he would include in a certain Beethoven concerto.

But that was in the 1950s. Today a man like Heifetz wouldn't take a taxi and the driver wouldn't be able to talk to him about cadenzas. Because in the years after Barenboim's childhood in Haifa and Tel Aviv, Israel has taken on a clearly Middle Eastern character: Mizrahiyut has become a part of its identity. Evidently, citizen of the world Barenboim isn't aware of this. He rightly calls for more teaching of the Arabic language, but very many Israelis are currently fluent in Arabic. Many of them learned the language during their army service in the territories, and their knowledge of the language didn't do much to give them more of an affinity for the Palestinians. Similarly, the Hebrew that Palestinians learn as prisoners in Israeli jails doesn't endear Israel to them that much, either.

Barenboim is bringing European culture to the Palestinians, though. This week, he conducted a Haydn symphony in Ramallah and also called on Israel to prefer Europe to America. In three months, Barenboim will complete his work with the Chicago Symphony. He's tired of hearing everywhere he go es that George Bush is no good; after all, Bush is only a product of American culture, said Barenboim, as if this was the worst possible thing that could be said about Bush, and about America. The people at the YMCA applauded. Not that they necessarily have something against America or Bush, but most of them were Israelis who affiliate themselves with the culture of Europe and not of the Middle East, like Barenboim.

I didn't applaud at the end. I did at the beginning. That's because the only thing, it seems, that Barenboim and I now share is a bit of 'Old World' charm and manners. Wait, just the manners.

1 comment:

peet_g said...

Thanks for your both postings to Barenboim! :-)