January 5, 2011
Playing for peace in the Middle East
Jenifer Fenton

Music can change the state of the world, stop conflict and bloodshed, and bring peace to war-torn regions.
If that sounds far-fetched then you haven’t met Russia’s famed maestro Valery Gergiev.
“The power of music can be (a) very quiet power because your heart feels happy. Beautiful music makes you maybe a better person. Maybe a better person will think twice before supporting a military solution, before seeing yet another conflict,” Gergiev said before conducting the World Orchestra for Peace, which performed Tuesday for the first time in an Arab country, the United Arab Emirates. “Instead of living in this troubled world we will find a way to share the sea, to share the sunlight.”
The 75 musicians performing represented at least 62 international orchestras and 30 countries. To have representatives of many nations seated together on stage sends what Gergiev hopes is a transformative message.
“You start to feel that people find it easy to build relationships immediately, of course through music,” Gergiev, who is also the artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, said. “We don’t have to tell each other ‘Look we need peace.’ We bring it. Just the very fact of our arrival is already a fanfare for peace.”
The orchestra founded by the Hungarian conductor Sir Georg Solti first performed in Geneva in 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. Following Solti’s death in 1997, Gergiev, was chosen as his successor. The orchestra has since gathered on special occasions to promote peace and rebirth.
Previously they have played in London on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Blitz; in Germany, Russia and China on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II; to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg; for the Easter Festival in Moscow; and in cities that know the devastation war can bring like Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Krakow, Poland.
Solti lived through two world wars and was a refugee. He believed that conflict was pointless, his wife and also patron of the World Orchestra for Peace Valerie Solti said. “What’s the point of…bombing each other, shooting each other? Historically we know it doesn’t work.” The orchestra grew from the idea that people can work together without conflict. “Musicians are global people. Solti had the idea to demonstrate that and orchestra or musicians are citizens of the globe and they all get together and religion and race doesn’t come into it.”
The sold out performance at Emirates Palace was hosted by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation. The orchestra played Rossini’s William Tell Overture, Prokofiev’s Symphony No 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5.
“I am blessed with being on stage with the very fine musicians and playing very very fine composition, playing for the people,” said Gergiev who grew up in the Caucasus, then part of the Soviet Union.
“We cannot, we are not military we cannot make a statement that we are going to attack unless you stop doing certain bad things that you do now. That is not the way for musicians we can only send yet another positive signal.”