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Article added on March 12, 2003
Daniel Barenboim biography Part 4: 1955-56 & Artur Rubinstein (based on Barenboim's autobiography A Life in Music)
 
In the winter of 1955-56, accompanied by his family and with the help from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation, Daniel Barenboim went to Paris where he stayed a year and a half studying with Nadia Boulanger. Markevich, a close friend of hers, had established the contact.
 
For Barenboim, studying with Nadia Boulanger was almost a game. She always had the music of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier on the piano. She would turn pages and tell the boy: "Play this one in E flat minor". In other words, he had to transpose the music. At the beginning, an extremely difficult task for Barenboim. She was strict in teaching counterpoint but never scholastic in her approach to what her pupil wrote. There was nothing rigid about her methods. She made Barenboim aware of the fact that musical structure was not a dry subject but an integral part of music that can be perceived emotionally and not just rationally.
 
In 1956, Barenboim made his first recording for Philips. In this context, the pianist explains that the fact that you can start and stop as often as you like in a recording studio does not make you play more spontaneously and recklessly, as one may think, but on the contrary, there is often a tendency to want to bring out all elements one has thought about and prepared in advance. Therefore, Barenboim does not share Glenn Gould's philosophy that recording is the only way to produce music today. For Barenboim, music runs parallel to nature. The clock as well as the music cannot stand still. Therefore he concludes: "This naturalistic idea of music is the very antithesis of recording, and recording can at best be only the historical record of a given moment." As a reviewer I would add that in fact Barenboim is best in life performances. It comes as no surprise that Barenboim writes that studying for weeks in a studio for one recording would mean to give away naturalness in return for sterility. And he adds: "Today, I like live recordings most of all. They are the evidence of a musical opinion at a given moment [...] they possess the spontaneity and intensity of a public performance which you will never achieve in a studio."
 
In April 1956, Barenboim took part in a piano competition in Naples. He was sent there by Carlo Zecchi from whom he got a diploma after observing his piano classes at the Academia Santa Cecilia in Rome. In the summer of 1956, Barenboim joined Zecchi's conducting class in Siena. Daniel had met him in Salzburg where he played for Zecchi, who encouraged him to continue to study conducting. Zecchi's lessons also marked Barenboim's beginning friendship with two fellow students, the ten years older Claudio Abbado and the six years older Zubin Mehta, who were in the same class. About Zubin Mehta, Barenboim writes that he is probably the only person who became a soulmate of his very early on and has remained one since. Mehta is an Indian of Parsee origin who happened to study in Vienna and who not only achieved a total sense of identification with Western music, but is also (always according to Barenboim) one of the most eclectic conductors today. It was through the Indian that Daniel became interested in a great deal of music he did not know before, especially opera, Richard Strauss and Anton Bruckner.
 
The Suez War started in October 1956. Barenboim and other musicians continued to play concerts every evening with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, surrounded by enemies who wanted to "throw the Jews into the sea".
 
In December 1956, Barenboim made his first trip to North America, thanks to an invaluable introduction from Artur Rubinstein. In Paris in 1955, it was Rubinstein who practically negotiated the boy's first contract with Sol Hurok. He also told Hurok that he probably would not make any money out of the young pianist for a number of years. Daniel gave his first concert in New York City in January 1957. It was neither a failure nor a success, Barenboim recalls. He thinks that his agent, Sol Hurok, probably had to work hard to secure him further engagements at a difficult age, since he was neither a child anymore nor a grown-up yet. Rubinstein encouraged Hurok not to lose faith in Barenboim - and he never did.
 
Rubinstein attended Barenboim's concerts whenever he could - in New York, and in Paris in the early 1960s. He always invited Daniel to his house afterwards. In 1966, Rubinstein bought a house in Marbella and invited Barenboim there. The young pianist had to decline because in August and September he was at the Edinburgh Festival and later he was ill with glandular fever. This is how Barenboim met his later wife Jacqueline du Pré who had the same illness very badly. The two started talking on the phone, comparing notes. A few months later, Rubinstein was in Portugal where he heard Jacqueline's first recording. He invited Barenboim and du Pré - they were married by that time - to his house in Spain where they played for him on "innumerable occasions".
 
In January 1967, Barenboim conducted the New Philharmonia Orchestra (today the Philharmonia Orchestra). It was a much publicized concert since he had taken over a few days' notice from a conductor who had fallen ill. Apart from those with the English Chamber Orchestra, it was Barenboim's first major concert in Europe. By then, he was mainly known as a pianist. It was a success and opened up a large number of opportunities for him in the future. A few months later in Paris, Rubinstein asked Barenboim to conduct the Israel Philharmonic to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the opening of the new concert hall in Tel Aviv. And that is how Rubinstein became conductor Barenboim's first soloist. Later, Daniel often played with Rubinstein, especially when Barenboim was appointed Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, until Rubinstein's retirement. They also recorded the Beethoven concertos together with Jacqueline du Pré. Barenboim saw Rubinstein for the last time about three weeks before he died. He remembers the great pianist's "unique flair of convincing one that the way he played a piece was the only possible way of playing it." At the same time, he was "very open and alert to what was happening in the orchestra - he knew how to play chamber music with a symphony orchestra."
 
Click here for Part 1 of Barenboims' biography; Part 2: 1948-54; Part 3: 1954-55.




Daniel Barenboim: A Life in Music. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, September 2002, 246 p. Get the English edition of the autobiography from Amazon.co.uk,
Amazon.com (another edition?), Amazon.fr, Amazon.de. Deutsche Ausgabe Die Musik, mein Leben. Autobiografie bestellen bei Amazon.de oder citydisc Schweiz. 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, Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker: Schumann Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Get the CD from Amazon.com, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de.
 

Daniel Barenboim: Albéniz Iberia Book 1 & 2, España. Get the CD from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.fr, Amazon.de.