Article added on March 12,
Daniel Barenboim biography Part 4: 1955-56
& Artur Rubinstein
(based on Barenboim's
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
here for Part 1 of Barenboims' biography; Part
2: 1948-54; Part
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, Celibidache, Münchner Philharmoniker: Schumann Piano Concerto,
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Get the CD from Amazon.com,
Daniel Barenboim: Albéniz Iberia Book 1 & 2, España. Get the CD