Make music, not war

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In director Dror Zahavi’s engaging Crescendo, world-renowned German conductor Eduard Sporck (Peter Simonischek from Toni Erdmann), reluctantly accepts the task of creating an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra. The maestro encourages his students to see past deeply ingrained mistrust of “the enemy” by sharing his own complicated story. His doctor parents were Nazis responsible for numerous atrocities at the Buchenwald death camp, and although he was just a baby at the time, he’s shouldered the burden of this dark legacy his entire life.

Sporck’s students include Layla (Sabrina Amali), a 24-year-old Palestinian violinist from the West Bank. Braving humiliating and frustrating security checkpoints, as well as the resistance of her traditional mother, Layla manages to get to the orchestra audition in Tel Aviv. She’s joined by her young neighbour, Omar (Mehdi Meskar) who, with his proud father, plays traditional music on clarinet at local weddings.

Sporck awards Layla a leadership role, which makes her a  target for the anger of Jewish violinist Ron (Daniel Donskoy). He resents that some Palestinians are being chosen for the ensemble despite what he sees as inferior music skills.

A rehearsal soon disintegrates into a shouting match between the Israeli and Palestinian musicians that makes personal the bitter political reality. In the face of this friction, the organizers decide to move the concert to the mountain region of Italy, where Sporck conducts a kind of group therapy session to convince the young musicians try to see one another as people and not as representatives of the enemy.

Crescendo noble intentions are complemented by gorgeous music, played by real-life Israeli and Palestine musicians, ranging from Dvorak’s “Serenade for Winds” to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to Ravel’s “Bolero”. The theme of music’s universal power to heal is not new. But as the maestro tells his students, if Jews and Germans can manage to see the humanity in one another, others can find common ground, too.

– Loren King, Newport This Week

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