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The biography of Daniel Barenboim
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, (another edition?),, Deutsche Ausgabe Die Musik, mein Leben. Autobiografie bestellen bei 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 Argentina
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 five.
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 family ties.
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 conductor.
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).
Click 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 or

West-Estern Divan Orchestra: The Ramallah Concert. 2005. Order the DVD from, or