Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim (born 1942) was an Israeli pianist and conductor. After receiving an international musical education, he established himself as one of the most highly regarded young conductors and performers in the world.

Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires on November 15, 1942. His Jewish Ukrainian parents were both music teachers who, on the advice of violinist Adolf Busch, allowed their prodigy son to début as a pianist at the age of seven in Buenos Aires. Two years later the family moved to Europe where Barenboim played at the Salzburg Mozarteum and studied conducting with Igor Markevich. The following year, 1952, the family settled in Israel, although Barenboim returned to Europe to study piano with Edwin Fischer. At this time, he met the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who influenced Barenboim's conducting. He studied at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome where, as one of the youngest graduates ever, he received a diploma in 1956. During this period he also took composition lessons from Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

He made his début in England in 1955 and played a Mozart concerto at the Festival Hall for the bicentennial of that composer's birth. For his American début in 1957 he played Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto, with Leopold Stokowski conducting. The following year he played again in New York and gave concerts throughout the world as well.

Barenboim began conducting in Israel in 1962 and then appeared on the podium in Australia. In 1964, he made the first of his appearances with the English Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble he both conducted and performed with as a pianist regularly. He also toured with the English Chamber Orchestra in Latin America and the Far East. He conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in 1968 in New York and appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1970. After 1970, he appeared regularly with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and other major orchestras in the United States. He also frequently appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and with the Orchestra de Paris, of which he was named conductor in 1975. He directed London's South Bank Summer Music festival for two seasons in 1968 and 1970. He conducted Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973, followed by Le Nozze di Figaro in 1975.

He appeared as conductor with many leading performers, including Artur Rubinstein, Clifford Curzon, and Isaac Stern. Further, he accompanied vocalists Fischer-Dieskau and Janet Baker in performances of Lieder and played chamber music with violinists Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman and with the English cellist Jacqueline du Pré, to whom he was married in 1967. He gave the première of Alexander Goehr's Piano Concerto in 1972.

Barenboim established himself as an important interpreter of the Classical and Romantic repertories. He overcame initial opposition to his apparent flamboyance, manifest in the flexible tempo in his conducting of Mozart and Beethoven and his lavish attention to detail, which it was sometimes thought compromised the integrity of the score. His emotionalism was tempered and his judgment subsequently confirmed, however, and his intuitive powers as an interpreter were highly regarded. He branched out as a conductor to include the music of Bach, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Elgar, and the French composers in his programs.

His repertory as a pianist was comparatively narrow but also masterful. He recorded all the Mozart piano concertos, and his version of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas was especially well-received. He also recorded the Beethoven piano concertos and violin and piano sonatas. He performed the piano music of Chopin and Brahms as well.

In the late 1980s Barenboim was appointed as the Artistic Director of the Opera de la Bastille in Paris. He was not to last long in this position as the president of the Paris Opera Association forced Barenboim to resign his post because Barenboim refused to reduce his substantial salary.

After leaving the Opera de la Bastille, Barenboim was chosen to succeed Sir Georg Solti as the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra thanks to Solti pressing for Barenboim to take over the position.


Further Reading on Daniel Barenboim

An article on Barenboim appeared in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980) and in Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1978). Irving Kolodin wrote an article on the conductor-performer, "Barenboim's Maturing Art, " for the Saturday Review (September, 1980). "Daniel Barenboim, piano, " by H. Goldsmith, may be found in HiFi/MusAm (March, 1981). Additional reading includes Musiker im Gesprach— Daniel Barenboim/Maurizio Pollini, by J. Meyer-Josten (Frankfurt-am-Main, no date) which was reviewed in Musikerziehung (February, 1981).

Additional information on Barenboim can be found in "Playing With Ire" in Chicago (September, 1995) and "Daniel Barenboim: Banished From the Bastille, He'll Take Command in Chicago" in Ovation (July, 1989).