Based in Seville, Spain, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was founded in 1999 by conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim and literary theorist and writer Edward Said, in an attempt to bring together young musicians of Israeli, Palestinian, Iranian, and Arab nationalities in a spirit of international cooperation and understanding.
The orchestra was named after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1819 poetry anthology on occidental and oriental themes, "West-östlicher Diwan." Originally anticipated to be a small chamber group for a workshop to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth, it became a full-fledged orchestra because of the high number of applicants. The first workshop was held in Weimar, Germany, but later workshops have been held in Spain. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra also tours internationally, notably concentrating its efforts on the Middle East. Because a private foundation has given the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra a home in Seville, Spanish musicians are also welcomed as members of the ensemble. Since its formation, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has been awarded the Principe de Asturias Concord Award, as well as the Japan Arts Association's Premium Imperiale Award.