West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
It's an understatement to say these young musicians from the Middle East make music, not war. This live recording from the 2007 Salzburg Festival offers some of the most intense and refined music by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
Conductor Daniel Barenboim, who founded the group in 1999, leads the 100-plus Israeli and Arab players in tackling Schoenberg's Variations for Orchestra with style. Despite the challenging musical terrain posed by the new 12-tone method, the modern work is woven here with great flow and sweep. The brass and percussion in the short 8th variation, for example, are biting.
In Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, the orchestra turns up the heat and renders the famous work with white-hot passion. The unusual seating of the double basses on the left yields fresh effects when contrasting with the brass and bass drum on the right.
The strings, too, are lyrical, especially in the slow movement. The portamento in the famous waltz conjures up macabre effects, contrasted by the spectacular tour de force in the third movement. The sheer power of the bass drum in the final chords, plus the refined strings in the final movement, are a statement of this multi-national group.