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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Arab-Israeli concert for peace
Daniel Barenboim
Barenboim hopes the event will be an annual institution
Tight security accompanied a concert by an orchestra made up of young Palestinian and Jewish musicians in Chicago on Tuesday.

Reflecting heightened political tension in the Middle East, photographs of the entire group were prohibited as some members were participating without official sanction.

The first day we played together, you wouldn't believe it, it was like fragments that are messed up everywhere

Claude Chalhoub, concert master

The concert took place at the end of a three-week programme, organised by the conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim, with the aim of building understanding through music.

"You feel the pain that these kids feel and then you think, 'My God, it's better not to talk about it'," said Barenboim.

"And then the next day, it is as if the music washes that all away."


The musicians were aged 15 to 25 and from Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

One of the musicians involved agreed that there was an element of discord at the outset.

"The first day we played together, you wouldn't believe it, it was like fragments that are messed up everywhere." said Claude Chalhoub, a violinist from Beirut, who was the 73-member orchestra's concertmaster.

Mozart: His Concerto for Three Pianos led the concert
During rehearsals the problems were remedied and despite security measures, which included a ban on bags and umbrellas in the concert hall, a packed house attended the concert at Chicago's Orchestra Hall.

Given the backgrounds of the musicians involved, politics inevitably had a place during the three-week event.

The violence which has erupted in Israel in the past year marred this year's event according to Saleem Abboud-Ashkar.

"Sometimes I think I am optimistic only because there is no other option," said the 24-year-old Palestinian-Israeli pianist.


Abboud-Ashkar led the concert performing alongside Shai Wosner, a 25-year-old Jewish pianist and Barenboim.

The trio played Mozart's Concert for Three Pianos, which they said was about music and not political symbolism.

Wagner: Notorious anti-Semite and Hitler's favourite composer
But audience members felt there was a political significance to the event.

"It gives hope for the future that people can see beyond a gun," said Jacie Hachem, a 28-year-old Chicagoan and native of Lebanon.

"It helps us to see that there are other ways to solve problems."

This was the third time Barenboim has organised what he calls the West-Eastern Divan Workshop, so named because of German writer Goethe's imaginary dialogue with the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz.

This was the first to be held in the US, the others took place in Germany.

Barenboim, who is Jewish and was brought up in Israel, made headlines recently for his decision to conduct a Wagner opera in Jerusalem.

Wagner is known to have been anti-Semitic and was Hitler's favourite composer.

His music, though not banned in Israel, is hardly ever played and Barenboim's proposed concert met with vociferous protest.

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