Impromptu address to the BBC Proms 18 Audience

London, Royal Albert Hall, July 27, 2012

I want to tell you two things today before we go, and this is why I allowed myself to come back and shake everybody’s hand, because it has been a most remarkable experience for me to do this complete cycle with this orchestra in this hall for the Proms. And today, we have the added joy of having four wonderful soloists – and what a chorus!

The freshness of the voices, added to the individual intelligence of the singers and the wonderful training that they had, make them a very, very special choir. I am sure you realize what a great gift it is to Great Britain to have this great chorus here.

Therefore, our gratitude goes to the BBC who gave us this wonderful and unique opportunity to be here and play all the Beethoven symphonies and one or two works by Pierre Boulez and have all that televised. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you, we travel a lot, and there is no country in the world that would do this for music and for culture.

As to the Middle East, which I suppose you expect me to give you a last minute analysis of the latest few minutes – I shan’t do that, but I want to tell you maybe two things. We are playing in Berlin on Sunday, and we were going to go on Monday to play a concert in solidarity with civic society in East Jerusalem. In solidarity with Palestinian civic society in East Jerusalem. And there were factions, Palestinian factions, who protested against this concert, and we are not going there.

Never mind the concert, much worse is the reasoning. The reasoning behind it is that we to them represent an instrument of normalization – in other words, of accepting the present status quo, with the occupation, the settlements, and everything that means. Let me tell you one thing, we are not a political project. We don’t have a political program but we have a certain amount of social conscience and solidarity with civic societies who suffer. What makes this orchestra – what it is besides the individual talent and the musicianship and the hard work – the dedication of each one of its members, is that they play together with this homogeneity because here in our little society of the West-Eastern Divan they are all equals.

And so I want to tell you that there are many people in the Middle East from all sides who have all kinds of different agendas. We know perfectly well that we will not be able to change the Middle East, but I can assure you that we are not going to let the people who are now in power in the Middle East change us.

Outside of the music we only have one agenda and one hope for everybody, and that is total justice for all the inhabitants of the region and equality of rights for everybody so that we can start thinking about how we can approach each other. This is our mission, and this was the mission of Edward Said who founded this orchestra with me.

I thought this was the appropriate moment to tell you, who have shown us so much loyalty over the years, not to speak of this week, to let you know what our feelings are. Thank you for listening to me, thank you for listening to the orchestra, thank you for listening to this wonderful chorus and soloists, and thank you for listening so quietly to all the works of Pierre Boulez.