The biography of Daniel
based on Barenboim's A
Life in Music
Article added on January 9, 2003
Daniel Barenboim: A Life in Music. Weidenfeld & Nicholson,
September 2002, 246 p. Get the English edition of the autobiography from Amazon.co.uk,
(another edition?), Amazon.fr,
Deutsche Ausgabe Die Musik, mein Leben. Autobiografie bestellen bei Amazon.de. A Life in Music is not an autobiography in the strict sense. Barenboim
does not refer to private or personal matters. The book is not simply a revised
edition, updated ten years later, as Barenboim has added six new chapters.
Barenboim's early years in
Daniel Barenboim was born in
Argentina's capital Buenos Aires on November 15, 1942. His four grandparents
were all Russian Jews. At the beginning of the 20th century, his maternal
grandparents fled the pogroms in Russia and emigrated to Argentina. They spent
their adult lives in the provinces of Argentina, in Jewish- and Zionist-minded
circles. They dreamed of a Zionist socialism in Israel - Mapai. Barenboim's maternal grandparents moved to Israel about the same time as his
parents and himself did, in 1952. His paternal grandmother died before Barenboim's
parents married. His grandfather, a watchmaker, died when he was about four or
His father's family background was different from his mother's. His father was
a passionate musician from an early age. When offered to perform in the United
States in the 1930s, he did not accept because he preferred maintaining strong
In the 1940s, some 700,000 Jews as well as many Nazis lived in Juan Perón's
Argentina. It was the world's third largest Jewish community, after Russia and
the US. Argentina was under the control of a rigid dictatorship, but,
according to Barenboim, there was no anti-Semitism. He never encountered any
as a child, never felt it privately or officially.
Argentina had been one of the world's richest countries until Perón's rise to
power. He began to ruin the economy. Barenboim's birthplace, Buenos Aires, was
a musical center (which it has ceased to be since then). Arturo Toscanini,
Wilhelm Furtwängler, the young Herbert von Karajan, Artur Rubinstein, Erich
Kleiber and Claudia Arrau performed or even spent a lot of time in Argentina's
capital. One of Barenboim's first musical memories of an international
celebrity performing in Buenos Aires is Adolf Busch playing Beethoven's Violin
Concerto and conducting a chamber orchestra in Händel's Concerti
Grossi in 1949. At the age of seven, Daniel went to many of his rehearsals
and also played for him. It was the first time he met an international star.
Barenboim's father studied with the Italian pedagogue Vicente Scaramuza who
later also taught Martha
Argerich, who was thirty years his father's junior. Barenboim's father
played locally with other instrumentalists, but his real passion was teaching
the more advanced students. Daniel's mother was also a piano teacher. She taught
children and beginners. Therefore, Barenboim grew up in the belief that
everybody played the piano.
At the age of five, Daniel himself started to play.
His father remained his only piano teacher till he was about seventeen. Barenboim
believes that he was very fortunate since many pianists go from one teacher to
another, learning each time different methods of playing. His father wanted
things to sound natural. No note should be played mechanically. There was no
division between musical and technical problems. His father laid great
emphasis on polyphony (the independence of voices) and therefore made Daniel
play a lot of Bach in his childhood.
All stars on tour in Argentina went to the house of the Austrian-Jewish family
of Ernesto Rosenthal, an amateur violinist. At seven or eight, Daniel played
there once for Sergiu Celibidache. Later, he met him frequently in Israel.
Barenboim's other important encounter at Rosenthal's home was with Igor
Markevich, a Russian conductor and composer. When Daniel was nine, listening
to his piano playing, Markevich told his father that the boy was a born
Adolf Busch encouraged his parents to let their child play in public. In
August 1950, at the age of seven, Daniel gave his first official concert in
Buenos Aires, playing a variety of pieces, including one by Prokofiev. At
eight, he gave his first concert with an orchestra in the Argentinean capital,
playing a piano concerto by Mozart (for
sheet music by Mozart click here).
here for Part 2 of Barenboims' biography; Part
3 of Barenboims' biography.
Daniel Barenboim + West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Tschaikowsky, Verdi,
Sibelius. Warner, August 2005. Order the CDs from Amazon.de
West-Estern Divan Orchestra: The Ramallah Concert. 2005. Order the DVD from