Harris Theater Presents MICHAEL BARENBOIM & THE WEST-EASTERN DIVAN ENSEMBLE Review – Glorious Strings

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Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 as an alternative way to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  That’s a tall order for two famous musicians, but the orchestra has thrived and now spun off the Ensemble, featuring eight of their string players.  Michael Barenboim, concertmaster of the Orchestra, is founder of the Ensemble.  This concert was their Chicago debut, and the world premiere of one of the works, Jawb commissioned from Benjamin Attahir by the Ensemble.

Harris Theater Hosts a Joyous Collaboration

The concert had something for every string music-lover.  The first Sextet No. 1 in B-flat Major for two violins, two violas, and two cellos, OP. 18 piece, by Johannes Brahms and the final piece, Octet in E-flat Major for strings, OP. 20 by Felix Mendelssohn were lush expositions from the classical world of chamber music.In these pieces, the musical conversation was among six and then eight musicians.  The added depth from the excellent acoustics of the Harris Theater,brought each note, each chord to life.  The players’ joyous collaboration, especially for the Mendelssohn Octet,roused the audience to give them a standing ovation at the end.

Michael Barenboim’s solo piece, Devil’s Trill Sonata for solo violin by Guiseppe Tartini, displayed Barenboim’s virtuosity.  The program notes say that this piece is much loved for both its intrinsic musical qualities, and the challenge of its technical difficulties.  Again, the excellent acoustics of the Harris Theater pulled each note from the violin to the listeners so we could appreciate the genius before us.


The world premiere of Jawbwas intended for string-lovers who enjoy pushing the envelope of new music.  The eight instruments were as much as plucked and struck as they were bowed.  To this reviewer  there appeared to be no cohesive melody, so the rhythm and repetition likely helped the Ensemble stay together, which they did brilliantly.

This performance was especially a treat for lovers of chamber music.


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MICHAEL BARENBOIM & THE WEST-EASTERN DIVAN ENSEMBLE was a one-night performance, and part of the series called Harris Theater Presents.  For upcoming performances in this series visit the Harris Theater website.

For More Information Please visit Harris Theater website.

Photos courtesy of Harris Theater

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Ann Boland
Portrait by Paul Sierra

Reviewer Ann Boland is committed to Chicago theater. Involved in the audience since the early 80’s, she’s witnessed firsthand the rise of our theater scene, our exceptional local talent, and the vigor of each new generation.  Ann handles public relations for authors and works on programs to help seniors with neurological movement disorders.  Please visit her website for more information.  


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