First Published: 2009-01-02

Conductor Barenboim urges Mideast peace

Israeli-Argentinian conductor calls on Israel to exercise caution at Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's concert.


Middle East Online

By Pierre Feuilly - VIENNA

Daniel Barenboim holds honourary Palestinian citizenship

The Gaza conflict cast a shadow over the Vienna Philharmonic's New Year's concert, as Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim Thursday urged Israel to excercise caution after six days of punishing airstrikes.

While recognizing Israel's legitimate right to self-defence, Barenboim -- who also holds honourary Palestinian citizenship -- questioned in a statement whether the Jewish state should "punish all Palestinians" for the actions of the militant group Hamas.

And as he offered his New Year's greetings at the magnificent Musikverein hall, the 66-year-old conductor expressed hope that 2009 would be a "year of peace in the world and of human justice in the Middle East."

The concert marked Barenboim's debut conducting the traditional January 1 concert that featured another first: a piece by Austrian composer Josef Haydn -- Symphony No. 45, or the "Farewell Symphony" -- launching a series of ceremonies marking the 200th anniversary of the composer's death.

Barenboim's appearance here follows in the steps of fellow stars Herbert von Karajan, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa and Lorin Maazel, all of whom were selected by the orchestra's musicians, who have managed the Philharmonic since its creation in 1842.

In all, 16 pieces were to be performed: mostly works by Johann Strauss junior and senior, except for Josef Strauss's "Music of the Spheres" and Josef Hellmesberger's "Valse espagnole."

Not on the programme but no less expected were the encores "The Blue Danube" and the "Radetzky March," which traditionally close the concert.

As Israel pursued its offensive on Hamas-run Gaza, Barendoim said in a statement that Jews, more than anyone else, should know that killing innocent humans was inhuman and inacceptable -- in obvious reference to the Holocaust.

He also confirmed an upcoming European and Middle Eastern tour of his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra gathering young Israeli and Palestinian musicians to promote peace. Starting January 10, the tour will include Qatar, Moscow and Vienna, finishing on the 18th at Milan's La Scala opera house.

The New Year's concert included pre-recorded short films to accompany the music for the television broadcast, which were choreographed by star dancer and Berlin Opera artistic director Vladimir Malakhov.

First performed on December 31, 1939 and held every year since, the concert was to be broadcast on television in 71 countries around the world, from Albania to Australia and Trinidad and Tobago to the United States.


Moscow seeks to boost its influence in Kurdistan through oil

Tillerson does not expect Gulf crisis to be resolved soon

35 Egyptian police killed in Islamist ambush

How Raqa recapture affects complex Syrian war

Ancient Turkish town set to vanish forever under floodwaters

Morocco recalls Algeria envoy over 'hashish money' jibe

Ceremony marks 75 years since WWII Battle of El Alamein

Somalia attack death toll rises to 358

Long road ahead for families of jailed Morocco protesters

Israel hits Syrian artillery after Golan fire

Germany advances Israel submarine deal after corruption holdup

Bashir Gemayel's killer convicted, 35 years later

SDF hails 'historic victory' against IS in Raqa

Hamas delegation visits Iran

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike

Yemen rebel youth minister urges children to join war

Iran's Guards show no intention of curbing activities in Mideast

EU will cut some money for Turkey as ties sour

Iraqi workers return to oil fields retaken from Kurds

Kurdish disarray shows resurgence of Iraq's army

Iranian military chief visits frontline near Syria's Aleppo

Iraq army takes last Kurd-held area of Kirkuk province

Turkey issues arrest warrants for 110 people over Gulen links

Lebanon approves first budget since 2005

Hamas calls US unity comments ‘blatant interference’

OPEC chief pleased with oil market rebalancing

Turkish police detain leading civil society figure

G7, tech giants meet to tackle terror online

Iraq’s Kurdish regional government open to Baghdad talks

Tensions flare among Yemen's rebels

Baghdad court issues arrest warrant for Iraqi Kurd VP

Erdogan, Nigerian counterpart to ramp up cooperation

Russian medics operate on Yemen's Saleh despite embargo

Baghdad condemns oil deal between Russia’s Rosneft, Kurds

Power shifts again in Iraq's multi-ethnic Kirkuk

Syrian general accused of journalist deaths killed in Deir Ezzor

Raqa liberators ready for civilian handover, on to next battle

Revolutionary Guards say Iranian missile program will continue

Erdogan calls on three major mayors to resign

ICC investigating several war crimes in Mali

Erdogan says may shut Iraqi border at any moment

Tunisian couple jailed for 'public indecency' over car kiss

Next round of Syria talks at end October

Gazans hope Palestinian reconciliation ends their woes

PSG's Khelaifi to be quizzed in Swiss World Cup probe