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Daniel Barenboim
biography, concert review
Article added in March 2000

Biography click here for our detailed biography

Born in Buenos Aires in 1942, Daniel Barenboim is the son of Jewish Russian immigrants. His family moved to Israel in 1952. Barenboim's only piano teacher was his father. He was seven when he first performed in public (in Buenos Aires) as a pianist and was launched on a career as a child prodigy. Soon afterwards he attended Igor Markevich's conducting classes in Salzburg. During that same summer he also met Wilhelm Furtwängler, played for him and attended some of the great conductor’s rehearsals and a concert. Furtwängler subsequently wrote a letter including the words, "The eleven year-old Barenboim is a phenomenon …" that was to open many doors to Daniel Barenboim for a long time afterwards. In 1955 the young Daniel Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
He made his first gramophone recordings in 1954 and soon began recording he most important works in the piano repertory, including complete cycles of the piano sonatas of Mozart (which he conducted from the keyboard) and Beethoven (with Otto Klemperer) and concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms (with Sir John Barbirolli) and Bartok (with Pierre Boulez). Between 1965 and 1975 he worked closely with the English Chamber Orchestra, with whom he undertook many international tours, appearing as both conductor and pianist. Following his début with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in London in 1967 he was soon in demand as guest conductor with all the leading European and American symphony orchestras. Between 1975 and 1989 he was Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, his tenure marked by a commitment to contemporary music, with performances of works by Lutoslawski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, Takemitsu and others. In 1991 succeeded Sir Georg Solti as Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1992 he became General Music Director of the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. He currently holds both posts.
Daniel Barenboim made his operatic début in 1973 when he conducted Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Edinburgh International Festival, after which he became closely associated with the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He made his Bayreuth début in 1981 and has been a regular visitor ever since, conducting Tristan und Isolde, The Ring, Parsifal and Die Meistersinger. Daniel Barenboim has also been active as a chamber musician, performing with his late wife, cellist Jacqueline du Pré (who died in 1987 from multiple sclerosis), with Gregor Piatigorsky, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. He has also accompanied Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in lieder recitals.
In addition, Barenboim has made recording of Argentinian tangos (Mi Buenos Aires Querido: Tangos Among Friends, 1996) in collaboration with Rodolfo Mederos and Héctor Console. His Tribute to Ellington with Diane Reeves, Don Byron and Chicago-based jazz musicians was released in autumn 1999 for the centenary of Ellington’s birth. Brazilian Rhapsody, an album of Brazilian music performed by Barenboim and with two tracks featuring the Brazilian pop star, Milton Nascimento is scheduled for release in mid-2000.
A Jew born during the Second World War – and an Israeli by nationality - Daniel Barenboim has worked with three German orchestras - the Berlin Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. In the early 1990s, a chance meeting between Barenboim and the Palestinian-born writer and Columbia University professor Edward Saïd in a London hotel lobby led to an intensive friendship that has had both political and musical repercussions. They have similar visions of Israeli/Palestinian possible future cooperation. They decided to continue their dialogue and to collaborate on musical events to further their shared vision of peaceful co-existence in the Middle East. This led to Barenboim’s first concert on the West Bank, a piano recital at the Palestinian Birzeit University in February 1999, and to a workshop for young musicians from the Middle East that took place in Weimar, Germany, in August 1999.
Concert review: Tonhalle Zurich, Febrary 10, 2000
Daniel Barenboim's program included Mozart's Sonata in C-Major KV 330, Beethoven's Sonata in f-minor op. 57 ("Appassionata") as well as six pictures from the Iberia-cycle by Isaac Albéniz. The second part of the concert, Albéniz, was less impressive, probably less due to Barenboim himself than to the composition. That he is a great interpreter of Mozart, Barenboim has proved more than once in his career; just listen to his new recordings of the Mozart Concertos for Piano No. 5, 6 & 8 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under his direction (Teldec, 1999, album 3984-21483-2).
In the concert, his interpretation of Mozart's Paris Sonata in C-Major KV 330 convinced with his rendering of its cheerful, idyllic and playful moods. Also the second mouvement, with its simple and intimate German Lied-form in contrast to the other mouvements, was a joy to listen to. Barenboim, who does not have any technical problems, could render Mozarts melodious sound perfectly.
The highlight of the evening was Beethoven's "Appassionata". In complete contrast to Mozart, Barenboim took the listeners on a journey with no joy, nothing fanciful and no romance. Instead of lightness, there was romantic darkness, there were passionate emotions, storms and volcanic eruptions. Barenboim's interpretation of the stirrings as well as the calm parts of Beethoven's Sonata were of a perfect clarity and transparency. Controlled, heavy, dramatic, passionate, the pianist dominated the sonata - altough he took some liberties with the written notes, but that did not hurt his interpretation. Strangely, the Zurich public reacted quite calmly to this masterful performance.
After the break, Albéniz' Iberia-suite captured the listeners attention less. Barenboim should have begun his concert with this Spanish program. It was again a completely different musical world that opened up: fanciful, romantic, colourful and with a sense of humour. The Iberia-cycle is neither impressionism like Debussy nor does it have the energy of the different underlying Spanish folk music styles. The pictures of the suite only came to life partly. The encores at end were more than conciliatory. Barenboim enchanted again with Mozart's Andante from the Sonata in C-Major KV 545. He is truly one of the great Beethoven and Mozart pianists.

Daniel Barenboim + West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: Tschaikowsky, Verdi, Sibelius. Warner, August 2005. Order it from or

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