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The Boston Globe

Arts

Music Review

Sidestepping politics, with help from Beethoven

Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra made its keenly anticipated local debut on Sunday afternoon, in an all-Beethoven performance hosted by the Celebrity Series of Boston. A large audience filed into Symphony Hall for the occasion, and seemed thrilled to be there, at a time when news of fruitful coexistence activities in the Middle East comes all too rarely.

Founded in 1999 by Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said, this ensemble is made up of Israeli Jews and Arabs from across the region. By now it has built an established musical track record but must still contend with the shifting sands of regional politics (it has still not been able to perform in all the countries from which its own members hail). Close readers of Sunday's program might have noted that the musicians’ names were not printed. This was for security reasons, given the dynamics at play in home environments on both sides, in which many coexistence initiatives are being increasingly viewed with suspicion or worse, as “normalization” with the enemy.

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