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Daniel Barenboim biography part 2: 1948-1953
based on Barenboim's A Life in Music
Article added on January 10, 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.
When the State of Israel was created in 1948 Daniel Barenboim's parents decided to emigrate there, although they did not have to leave Argentina for reasons of anti-Semitism. Unlike his father, his mother had been an enthusiastic Zionist from early age on.
In July 1952 the family left for Europe on their way to Israel. His parents main desire was for their son to grow up as a member of a majority population, and not in a Jewish minority somewhere in the Diaspora.
In Buenos Aires, Markevich had his very own way of conducting and wanted to set up a school for conductors. He asked Daniel's parents to take him to Salzburg, Austria, to take part in the last concert of the conducting class - which Daniel did, playing Bach's Concerto D minor. Throughout the summer of 1952, he observed Markevich's conducting class. Barenboim at this time was nine years old and spoke only Spanish and a little Yiddish.
At the end of August 1952, the family went to Vienna where Barenboim's father gave a lecture at the Academy and Daniel played a succession of concerts, including one at the American Institute. From Vienna the family went to Rome where Daniel gave a recital towards the end of the year.
In December 1952, the Barenboim's flew to Israel. Daniel remembers a pioneer feeling, a great sense of activity and purpose. He himself had a feeling of achievement by the education he received at home, which was based on self-observation and self-analysis. Home and country became one unit and there was a feeling of emotional security.
Arriving in December in Israel meant that Daniel had to start school in the middle of the school year, with a language of which he did not understand a word, not to mention the different alphabet. No one of his family could speak Hebrew. He also learned English which is still the second language in Israeli schools today.
Barenboim grew up in Tel Aviv where, in the 1950s, he could play football in the streets. Doors and windows were open, people communicated with each other. Zionist and socialist ideas as well as a positive attitude towards life dominated. Daniel did not leave Israel between the end of 1952 and the summer of 1954. He lived in a flat together with his parents and grandparents.
During his teens, Daniel became interested in philosophy and read Spinoza and Kierkegaard. He was impressed my Martin Buber and Max Brod. Buber made him realize that things are never what they seem to be but how one thinks about them. In school, they also discussed the Bible from a philosophical angle.
His father continued to be his music teacher, but Barenboim also studied composition for some time with the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim, who had come from Munich and whose name was originally Paul Frankenburger. Ben-Haim taught him harmony, but he was not strict enough. It was not until 1955 in Paris with Nadia Boulanger that he was "put through the mill" and received an ascetic, strict musical education.
Daniel gave some recitals in Israel and played chamber music in public. In the summer of 1953, he gave his first concert with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which was conducted by Milton Katims. He received a mixed reception from the players and the audience. They felt that he was a promising young talent but at the same time there was "the typically Jewish reaction" - Ah well, we have seen too many child prodigies.
Click here for Part 1 of Barenboims' biography; biography part 3.