It was a universal gesture of peace: when he was to perform the Radetzky March, a piece written for a military leader, at his second Vienna New Year’s Concert in 2014, conductor Daniel Barenboim - a pacifist - came upon a charming solution. He had the orchestra play without a conductor and shook hands with each of the musicians during the performance. This symbolic act, both planned and immediate in its message, is the perfect embodiment of Barenboims’s humanistic and musical approach.
From the very beginning, Barenboim possessed a musicality that touched people directly without being bound to rigid concepts. He gave his debut at the age of ten in Vienna and Rome. At the age of eleven he took part in a conducting course led by Igor Markevitch in Salzburg, where he met and played for Wilhelm Furtwängler in 1954. The charismatic German conductor is, along with Sir John Barbirolli, Barenboim’s role model. As a conductor, Barenboim exudes a greatness that critics have attempted to characterize with the words “intelligence and feeling” or “spontaneity and boundlessness.”
Barenboim achieved everything possible with the piano at an early age. He had already recorded the complete Beethoven sonatas at the age of sixteen. Yet in both his interpretations and repertoire, he continues to explore new realms to this day.
1965-69 first recording of the 32 Beethoven sonatas
1973 debut as an opera conductor (Don Giovanni, Edinburgh Festival)
1975 Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Paris
1981-1984 second recording of the 32 Beethoven sonatas - with its wealth of musical details and interpretative insights, it is widely considered a standard recording
1991-2006 Principal Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
From 1992 Artistic Director and General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden
1999 founds the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Edward Said
2005 third Beethoven sonata cycle, this time as a live recording
2011-2014 Music Director of Milan’s La Scala
Numerous prizes, including British knighthood
Did you know?
In 2015 a piano developed and commissioned by Barenboim was presented following a production period of 4000 working hours. With parallel strings.
Barenboim made his first piano recordings in 1954. His official conducting debut was a performance with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962.
With literary scholar Edward Said, Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999, which consists of Israeli, European, and Arabic musicians.
Barenboim was and continues to be a leading vocal accompanist and chamber musician - including collaborations with his wife Jacqueline du Pré, who died much too early, and violinists Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman.
He is a citizen of Argentina, Israel, and Spain. In 2008 he also acquired Palestinian citizenship - “for his commitment to the Palestinian people and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Barenboim provoked a furore in Israel with Wagner’s music, interpreting an excerpt from Tristan and Isolde with the Staatskapelle Berlin in 2001. Concerts that include Wagner’s works are taboo in Israel.
A highlight of Barenboim’s involvement with Richard Wagner was the Bayreuth Festival, where he conducted for eighteen successive summers starting in 1981.
Barenboim is committed to Viennese modernism and contemporary music, often conducting works by Lutosławski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, and Takemitsu.
Barenboim is active in promoting music education for young people; his work has included founding music kindergartens in Berlin and Palestine, creating a Palestinian Youth Orchestra, and establishing the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin.