Daniel Barenboim is one of today’s most outstanding artists. As a pianist and conductor, he has been active for decades in major cities across Europe and all around the world; as the founder of several orchestras and the initiator of several highly acclaimed projects, he has contributed decisively to international music life.
Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He first received piano instruction from his mother, later from his father, and held his first public recital at age seven in Buenos Aires. In 1952, he moved to Israel with his parents. At age 11, Daniel Barenboim participated in conducting classes in Salzburg with Igor Markevitch. In the summer of 1954, he met Wilhelm Furtwängler and performed for him. Furtwängler subsequently wrote, “The eleven year old Daniel Barenboim is a true phenomenon.” Until 1956, he studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
At age 10, Daniel Barenboim had his debuts as a solo pianist in Vienna and Rome; this was followed by debuts in Paris (1955), London (1956), and in New York (1957) where he played with Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has undertaken regular tours in Europe, the U.S., South America, Australia, and the Far East.
Numerous recordings attest to Daniel Barenboim’s great artistic stature as a pianist and a conductor. In 1954, he began with solo recordings, including Beethoven’s piano sonatas. In the 1960s, he recorded Beethoven’s piano concertos with Otto Klemperer conducting, Brahms piano concertos with Sir John Barbirolli, and all of Mozart’s piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, where he conducted from the piano. As an accompanist, he has worked regularly with important singers such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
Since his 1967 conducting debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Daniel Barenboim has been in demand as a conductor at leading orchestras around the world, including the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonics, ensembles with whom he has worked for decades now. Between 1975 and 1989, he was chief conductor of the Orchestre de Paris, where he premiered numerous contemporary works.
His debut at the opera podium was held at Edinburgh Festival in 1973, where he conducted Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In 1981, he conducted for the first time in Bayreuth, and continued to conduct there ever summer until 1999, with performances of “Tristan und Isolde”, the “Ring” cycle, “Parsifal”, and “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg”.
From 1991 to June 2006, Daniel Barenboim served as chief conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, the musicians of the orchestra voted him honorary conductor for life. With this top-notch ensemble he completed a series of important recordings, including works by Brahms, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and Schönberg.
Since 1992, Daniel Barenboim has been general music director at Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden, from 1992 to August 2002 also serving as artistic director. In the fall of 2000, Staatskapelle Berlin named him chief conductor for life.
In both the opera and the concert repertoire, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle have jointly worked on large-scale cycles and presented them in Berlin and on worldwide guest performance tours. The cyclical production of Richard Wagner’s 10 major works at Berlin’s Staatsoper met with worldwide acclaim, as did the performance of all symphonies by Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, and Bruckner. Other cyclical projects included the symphonies and orchestral songs of Mahler (together with Pierre Boulez) and the opera and orchestral works of Berg, Schönberg, and Debussy.
In addition to the great works of the classical-romantic repertoire and classical modernism, Daniel Barenboim and the orchestra have increasingly focused on contemporary music. They realized world premiere performances of Elliott Carter’s only opera “What Next?” and Harrison Birtwistle’s “The Last Supper”. The symphony concerts regularly feature compositions by Boulez, Rihm, Carter, and Widmann.
Among the constantly growing number of works that Daniel Barenboim has recorded with Staatskapelle Berlin include Wagner’s three romantic operas (“Der fliegende Holländer”, “Tannhäuser”, and “Lohengrin”), Beethoven’s “Fidelio”, Strauss’ “Elektra”, and Berg’s “Wozzeck”, the symphonies of Beethoven, Schumann, Bruckner und Elgar and the piano concertos of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Brahms, with Daniel Barenboim as soloist. In 2003, he and the Staatskapelle were awarded the Wilhelm-Furtwängler-Preis.
From 2007 to 2014, Daniel Barenboim was active at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, from 2011 he served as music director. Here, he presented new productions of “Tristan und Isolde” and the “Ring des Nibelungen”, in addition he performed at symphony and chamber concerts.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim founded the Western-Eastern Divan Orchestra together with the Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said. Each summer, this project brings together young musicians from Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. The orchestra seeks to foster a dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East by way of the experience of making music together. Musicians from Staatskapelle Berlin have contributed to this project from the very beginning as mentors.
Since 2015, talented young musicians from the Middle East have studied at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin, another initiative of Daniel Barenboim. In the fall of 2016, this academy for music and humanities began a four-year bachelor’s program for up to 90 students in the renovated and remodeled former Magazine of the Staatsoper. This building also houses the Pierre Boulez Saal, designed by Frank Gehry, which has enriched Berlin’s musical life since its opening in March 2017, with Daniel Barenboim as conductor, piano soloist, chamber musician, and accompanist. 2016 Daniel Barenboim founded a piano trio with violinist Michael Barenboim and cellist Kian Soltani, with first concerts in Teatro Colón in Summer 2016. During the 2017/18 season the musicians performed the complete Beethoven Piano Trios in Pierre Boulez Hall, combined with contemporary works.
Daniel Barenboim has been awarded many important prizes and honors: he has received the Große Verdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband, Federal Republic of Germany, an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, and has been named commander of the French Légion d’honneur. The Japanese Imperial House honored him with the Premium Imperiale, in addition he was named a United Nations Ambassador for Peace. Queen Elizabeth II bestowed upon him the title of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Daniel Barenboim has published several books: the autobiography “A Life in Music” and “Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society” (together with Edward Said), as well as “Everything is Connected: The Power of Music”, “Dialoghi su musica e teatro. Tristano e Isotta“ (with Patrice Chéreau) and „Musik ist alles und alles ist Musik. Erinnerungen und Einsichten“.