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Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2002

Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said built up a close working relationship that inspired them to seek alternative paths towards peace, coexistence and mutual understanding through the medium of culture. Conceived in 1999, the West-Eastern Divan, a workshop for budding musicians from the Middle East, stands out for its significance and social impact amongst the projects that Barenboim and Said launched together and has subsequently become a guiding light for peaceful coexistence. The project unites young people through music, setting up orchestras where Palestinian, Israeli, Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian and other musicians all perform together, thus promoting coexistence and intercultural dialogue.

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra usually meets every summer in Seville to participate in a training workshop and then offer a concert tour. It has received several awards, including the Praemium Imperiale for Music awarded by the Japan Art Association (2007) and an International Emmy (2006) for its DVD Knowledge is the Beginning.

Since its inception, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has performed in many European countries (Spain, Germany, the UK, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Turkey, Italy and Portugal) and America (the USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil). The orchestra played for the first time in an Arab country in August 2003, offering a concert in Rabat, Morocco, while in 2005 it gave its first concert in a Middle Eastern country, performing in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

The Barenboim-Said Foundation was established in 2004. It is based in Seville and financed by the Government of Andalusia with the aim of developing a variety of educational projects through music based on the principles of coexistence and dialogue promulgated by Said and Barenboim. Thus, the Barenboim-Said Foundation not only manages the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, but also other projects such as the Academy of Orchestral Studies in Seville, the Musical Education Project in Palestine, and the Early Childhood Music Education Project in Andalusia.

Daniel Barenboim

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Daniel Barenboim (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1942) is one of the most highly regarded musicians of our times. The son of Russian-born Jewish emigrants, he has had a spectacular musical career as an orchestra conductor and concert pianist. He has been music director of the Paris Orchestra (1975-1989), and has worked with the Berlin Philharmonic and Bayreuth Festival Orchestras, to name only two. He was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1991-2006) and in 1992 became general music director of the Berlin State Opera (Staatsoper).

He applied for Spanish citizenship on 2nd September 2001, which was subsequently granted to him on 25th October 2002, and in 2008 he obtained honorary Palestinian citizenship, becoming the first person to hold both an Israeli and a Palestinian passport. Since 1980, he has frequently appeared at the Palace of Charles V in Granada (Spain), on the occasion of the holding of the International Festival of Music and Dance. Due to his links with this festival, he was awarded the Festival Medal of Honour in a ceremony held on 9th July 2011. In addition to his activities as a pianist and conductor, Barenboim has composed several tangos. He debuted at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York in 2008, conducting Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. In 2009 and 2014, he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in its New Year’s Concert.

He holds the Legion of Honour of the French Republic and, in 2011, was put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize for his numerous activities on behalf of concord and coexistence in the Middle East.

Among the many distinctions he has received is that of being named an honorary citizen of Spain, in addition to the Tolerance Award from the Evangelical Academy of Tutzing, Bavaria (2002), for his efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together. That same year, he was also awarded Germany’s Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz (Great Cross of Merit), the highest honour conferred on someone who is not a German national, and in 2004 he received the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal and the Wolf Prize for the Arts in Jerusalem. He was appointed Messenger of Peace by the UN Secretary General in 2007.

Edward Said

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Edward Said (Jerusalem, Israel, 1935 - New York, USA, 2003) was one of the unequivocal exponents of Palestinian cultures. This Palestinian intellectual, writer and essayist, who received a degree from Princeton University and a PhD from Harvard, lived in New York, where he worked as a lecturer at Columbia University, from 1963 until his death. His work ranges over vast fields of knowledge and includes such disciplines as political analysis, English literary criticism and musicology. He also subjected East-West social, cultural, religious and artistic relations to the closest scrutiny. Like other exiles throughout the course of history, Said overcame and rose above both his country’s and his own personal misfortunes, and succeeded in fulfilling the challenge, in the words of Juan Goytisolo, of “transforming destiny into conscience” and thereby “creating works that are above and beyond the chance circumstance of any given political stance because of the heart-felt pleas and selfless inspiration within them”.

In 1992, Said was appointed member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Forum of Elders, a group charged with identifying and defining the vital issues for the organization’s current and future work. An honorary member of King’s College, Cambridge, he was also a member of the Board of the International PEN club until 1998, and president of the Modern Language Association (MLA) in 1999. He was awarded numerous honorary doctorates worldwide and received the Columbia Trilling Prize on two occasions, as well as the Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association. The Palestine National Conservatory of Music was renamed the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in his honour in 2004.

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