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About the Barenboim-Said Akademie

Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, Sevilla, 2002

Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, Sevilla, 2002

Daniel Barenboim, Foto: Monika Rittershaus

Daniel Barenboim, (c) Monika Rittershaus

Daniel Barenboim, Mariam Said and the WEDO at the Brandenburg Gate, 2012

Daniel Barenboim, Mariam Said and the WEDO at the Brandenburg Gate, 2012

Model External View

The Akademie in the historic center of Berlin, (c) hg merz

Model External View

The Akademie's new entrance on Französische Straße, (c) hg merz

Model Pierre-Boulez Hall

Model of the Pierre-Boulez Hall, (c) Gehry Partners

In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and the American-Palestinian literary scholar Edward W. Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Weimar, Germany. The orchestra unites young Arab and Israeli musicians. Its name invokes J. W. Goethe’s late, lyrical work, which reflects the German poet’s admiration for the classical Persian love poems of Hafez, as well as his study of Islamic culture over many years: “God’s land is the Orient!/ God’s land is the Occident!/Northern like as Southern lands / Rest in peace between God’s hands.”

Starting in 2015, an extraordinary music academy in Berlin, the Barenboim-Said Akademie, will begin training young musicians from the Middle East, invited here on scholarships, in the spirit of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The academy will be housed in the former stage depot of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, a designated landmark building. Up to 90 young students from the Middle East will be enrolled in a four-year bachelor degree program in music, with a curriculum rooted in both music and the humanities. Daniel Barenboim will be in charge of the academic and musical direction of the academy.

The Barenboim-Said Akademie will include a new 620-seat concert hall, the Pierre Boulez Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. The world-famous American architect has donated his work as a contribution to the project.


Construction work began in 2014. The federal government of Germany is supporting the project by underwriting construction costs and subsidies to its educational budget. Among the Barenboim-Said Akademie’s first donors is the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who contributed the substantial proceeds of an honorary award he received to the academy. Other donors have already made significant contributions to the project.


Michael Naumann, former minister of culture of the Federal Government of Germany, is acting CEO of the Academy.

Mariam Said, Wolf Lepenies and Joachim Sartorius are members of the BSA's Advisory Council.


Daniel Barenboim, Photography by Pablo Castagnola
Daniel Barenboim, Photography by Pablo Castagnola

Daniel Barenboim

is the General Music Director of the Staatsoper in Berlin, a post he has held since 1992. In 2011, he was appointed to the same position at La Scala in Milan. Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. At the age of five, he started piano lessons with his mother. Later, he also studied with his father. Barenboim gave his first public concert at the age of seven in Buenos Aires; he made his international debut as solo pianist in Vienna and Rome at the age of ten.  As a nine-year-old, he moved to Israel with his family. “The eleven-year-old Barenboim,” said the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler at the time, “is a phenomenon.”  Between 1975 and 1989, Daniel Barenboim acted as principal conductor of the Orchestre de Paris. From 1981 to 1999, he conducted in Bayreuth, and from 1991 through June of 2006, he was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In Chicago, the orchestra members named him honorary conductor, and in Berlin the Staatsoper unter den Linden appointed him a principal conductor for life. In 2006, Barenboim held the Norton Lectures at Harvard University, which have been published as “Music Quickens Time,” one of his many books. Together with Edward Said, he co-authored “Parallels and Paradoxes. Explorations in Music and Society.”

His musical oeuvre has been documented in over 500 audio and video recordings.


“Great music is the result of concentrated listening - every musician listening intently to the voice of the composer and to each other. Harmony in personal or international relations can also only exist by listening, each party opening its ears to the other’s narrative or point of view. In 1999, Edward Said and myself formed the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries. That is from a region where the open ear has been too often replaced by the unsheathed sword, to the detriment of all. Now, 14 years later, we have hopefully achieved an orchestra that is worthy of your attention. And one which shows that people who listen to each other, both musically and in all other ways, can achieve greater things.”

Edward W Said
Edward W Said

Edward W. Said

was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, was raised in Cairo, and studied in the United States at Princeton and Harvard. In 1963, he began his teaching career at Columbia University in New York, where he held the preeminent position of University Professor of English and Comparative Literature until his death in 2003. He wrote more than 20 books, which have been translated into 30 languages. His ground-breaking work “Orientalism” opened up new horizons in the study of post-colonialism. Said was active in the editorial committees of numerous magazines and journals and lectured at more than 200 universities in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. A gifted pianist, he also was the music critic for The Nation for many years. In the political sphere, he was a major voice on the situation in Palestine and an unflinching proponent of justice and self-determination for all. Edward Said was the president of the Modern Language Association as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Literature, the American Philosophical Society, and Honorary Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He also was a member of the executive board of PEN International until 1998.


Since Edward Said’s death, his widow Mariam C. Said has been actively involved in the running of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as the Vice President of the Barenboim-Said Foundation USA.

“Separation between peoples is not a solution for any of the problems that divide peoples. And certainly ignorance of the other provides no help whatever. Cooperation and coexistence of the kind that music lived as we have lived, performed, shared and loved it together, might be.”

“Humanism is the only, and I would go as far as to say the final resistance we have against the inhuman practices and injustices that disfigure human history.”