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Q: Is it a problem for musicians to be in your orchestra? What happens when they return home?
A: Many of them are criticized very thoroughly. The whole idea of the project is both admired and criticized on an even level, both in Israel and in the Arab world.
Q: You are threatening their mutual demonization?
Q: Tell me about the academy you are building in Berlin.
A: It’s a center for musicians who will also get tuition in areas not directly connected to music. Both Edward Said and I shared a horror of music being put in an ivory tower.
When an orchestra plays wonderfully together, people think they have a homogeneous sound. Nonsense! They have arrived at a point where they can think alike and this is why they sound homogeneous.
Q: So, you’re teaching musicians philosophy?
A: Yes. Music is not only about aesthetics, about being beautiful. As Freud said, culture is a larger reality, not an escape from reality.
Q: What kind of design did Frank Gehry create for you?
A: It’s a unique concert hall: it’s like the most imaginative, contemporary living room, with a beautiful oval shape. It’s small — only about 700 seats.
Q: You’ve taken a lot of heat for playing Wagner in Israel. Is that changing?
A: You should ask the Israelis! I’m sick and tired of it! … I am not a Wagner Messiah. The Israel Festival invited me to conduct a Wagner concert in Jerusalem in 2001 in July. In April, they said the Ministry of Education threatened to cut their subsidies if they allowed me to play.