Argentine-born pianist and conductor
The pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, born on the 15th of November, 1942, was noted for a lot beyond his musical mastery. He is famous for his bold and courageous efforts to promote peace through music in the Middle East, at a time when conflicts devastated the region frequently.
Barenboim was born to a musical family. His parents were pianists, with his father also serving as a music professor at a local school. He and his family moved from Argentina to Austria, where they settled in Salzburg when young Daniel was only nine years old. The family would move again, this time to Israel in 1952.
In Salzburg, Barenboim took part in conducting classes held by renowned conductor and instructor Igor Markevitch. During that time, he met and played for Wilhelm Furtwängler, who would become the young man’s primary musical influence for decades. He called Barenboim a “phenomenon”, thereby inviting him to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic, which served as the start of the youngster’s international career.
Barenboim’s professional debut as a pianist was in 1952 at the very young age of ten, when he played venues in Vienna and Rome. Three years later, he would perform in Paris. And a year after that, London. He would eventually reach American shores in 1957 when he played in New York under the baton of renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski.
He would mostly be known as a conductor, however. His professional conducting career started in 1962, first performing in Israel and then with the Melbourne and Sydney symphony orchestras in Australia. He would also serve as a guest conductor in several cities around Europe and the United States. For instance, he worked as Orchestre de Paris’ music director from 1975 to 1989. However, two years before leaving that position, Barenboim was the musical and artistic director of the new Bastille Opera in Paris in 1987. But he got dismissed from the job due to falling into disputes with the socialist government in Paris.
Aside from this, he also took the post of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director, succeeding the renowned Sir Georg Solti. Barenboim took over the orchestra when his predecessor retired in 1991, keeping the post for 15 years.
But again, his contributions to fighting unrest in the Middle East are at the forefront of his accomplishments. He firmly believed that music could improve relations in the region, so he co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 with Palestinian-American activist and scholar Edward Said. The orchestra featured Arab and Israeli musicians working together to create beautiful music, which was an unprecedented feat during the height of tensions.
Did You Know?
Barenboim holds four different citizenships: Argentina, Israel, Palestine, and Spain. And due to his musical contributions, he’s also a 6-time Grammy Award winner.
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