He lists his nationality in this way: Palestinian, Argentine, Spanish, Israeli.
He was born in Argentina in 1942.
His Russian-Jewish parents emigrated to Israel when he was 9. He had already performed his first piano recital.
Like so many musicians, he was precocious. He started playing the piano at age five, but his greatest achievements were to be as a conductor.
In 1954, Daniel Barenboim took conducting lessons. His teacher, Wilhelm Furtwanger said, “this eleven-year-old is a phenomenon.”
Barenboim traveled all over Europe and America giving piano concerts and making recordings. As his career matured, he started to spend more and more time as a conductor.
Music is a universal language and its practitioners can live and be creative anywhere in the world. They can also choose their allegiances and the ones he chose are interesting in their priorities.
Barenboim is now director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskepelle Orchestra of Berlin. In addition, he is musical director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 1999 he and Edward Said (a Palestinian-American Professor of Literature at Cornell) founded the West- Eastern Divan Orchestra. Headquartered in Seville, Spain, it is made up of young musicians from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Israel and Spain. It is meant to be a model of cooperation across political and religious divides. The intent is to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.
The Orchestra is named after a collection of poems by Goethe inspired by Persian prophet Hafez.
Barenboim says, “Divan was conceived as a project against ignorance and to create a platform where the two sides can disagree and not resort to knives.” Barenboim is a critic of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
In 2012 the West-Eastern Divan orchestra performed for Pope Benedict XVI in the courtyard of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo in Italy.
This year, Barenboim’s book, The Sound of “Utopia was published. It traces the history of the orchestra from its beginning.
In the next blog, I will further explore Barenboim’s life and career including his association with the cellist Jacqueline du Pre.
Editor’s note: Here is a link to an interesting YouTube about the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Very compelling personalities in this group.