Amal means hope in Arabic.
At the Metropolitan Museum this weekend, the Israeli pianist Yaron Kohlberg and the Palestinian pianist Bishara Haroni, who have played all over the world as Duo Amal, will make their New York debut as an ensemble.
To these two protégés of Maestro Zubin Mehta, their different backgrounds are no big deal. They have become good friends whose musical styles are beautifully compatible — and they have learned to make great music together. They are no doubt aware of the symbolism of their unusual musical partnership, but for them it’s really about the music.
Kohlberg was born in Jerusalem the same year, 1983, that Haroni was born in Nazareth. While Kohlberg is the son of a classical musician (his mother is a violinist), Haroni was the first in his family to play classical music. They met briefly when they were 15, when their practice schedules overlapped in Jerusalem. In 2008, when Kohlberg was invited to play at a concert for peace in Oslo, he thought of Haroni and his excellent reputation as a concert pianist and invited him to join him. Kohberg says that they felt an immediate connection and since then, they have been playing music together regularly. They formed Duo Amal in 2011.
The two stay away from talking politics but in an interview Kohlberg says that both are unhappy with the situation in their homeland.
“We are showing that it’s possible thorough communication to reach mutual understanding. Music is a way to do that,” Kohlberg says.
“For me, it doesn’t matter Jewish or Palestinian. We are all people,” Haroni says. The two toured with the Israel Philharmonic last month.
At the Metropolitan Museum, they will perform arrangements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (1813) and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (1913), works created a century apart, one hundred and two hundred years ago this season. The concert is part of a series, “1913: The World Implodes.” They will also play two pieces of their own selection, which they commissioned: “Amal” by the Palestinian composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi and “Karsilama,” a Turkish dance by Israeli composer Avner Dorman.
Some say that 1913 was a pivotal year in the Middle East as well. As Amy Dokser Marcus writes in “Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” the year marked the beginning of the battles between Arabs and Jews that would last over the next century. It was also the first time that secret peace talks were held between Palestinians and Zionists, but World War I, interrupted these efforts.
Limor Tomer, general manager of Concerts & Lectures at the Metropolitan Museum, booked Duo Amal for the series not for the symbolism or history, but simply for their musical reputation. “I approach them as world class duo piano ensemble willing to do this challenging program,” she says.
What about hopes for peace? “It is our dream,” Haroni says, “if not everyone’s. It’s something that we really wish will happen one day very soon.”
The concert is in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at The Metropolitan Museum, 1000 Fifth Ave., at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40. Seats for children ages 7-16, when accompanied by an adult with a full-price ticket are $1, subject to availability.