In a small apartment in Buenos Aires where Daniel Barenboim lived with his parents who were piano teachers, each time someone rang at the door, it was for a piano lesson.
"For a very long time, I thought everyone played the piano!" No, not everyone plays the piano, unfortunately, but he, Daniel, was to make his debut very young and give his first concert at the age of seven.
His family came back to Europe in 1951 then settled in Israel and he performed in the prestigious concert halls of Vienna and Salzburg. The two people he met who were to have a Major influence on his musical career were the pianist Edwin Fischer with whom he studied and the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler who wrote him a letter of recommendation when he was eleven.
Daniel Barenboim never chose between the two careers: he was to become a conductor and a pianist. This is rare, because by doing so he also takes on the often heavy responsibilities as a musical director: of the Paris Orchestra, of the Chicago Symphonic Orchestra, of the Berlin Staatsoper and, from 2000, of the Berlin Staaskapelle Orchestra to which he is appointed as musical director for life.
Very much concerned about world affairs, in 1999 he founds with his friend Edward Saïd, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in which he brings together each season Israeli and Arab musicians. The orchestra, in residence in Andalusia, goes on tour each summer. The idea is to bring together through music young people who would never otherwise meet thus teaching them to speak and listen to one another. Daniel Baremboim is so committed to this idea that in 2008 he adopts Palestinian nationality, "We have the good or bad fortune of living together," he said of the Israelis and the Palestinians, "I prefer the former to the latter."
This musician who is a great humanist and a passionate lover of Beethoven has recorded the complete thirty-two Sonatas for Piano twice (EMI and Deutsche Grammophon) and several times the Five Concertos for Piano and Orchestra, once under the direction of Otto Klempere and another time as conductor and pianist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Here he is again with Beethoven's concertos, in May 2007, at the Ruhr Piano Festival, conducting from the piano the Berlin Staaskapelle, one of the oldest orchestras in the world whose warm, dark sound perfectly matches the spirit of Beethoven. Barenboim is the only pianist today able to take up such a challenge: to conduct, while playing, five concertos. Composed between 1795 and 1808, they are the touchstones of all pianists, since Beethoven himself was an excellent pianist. Like the nine symphonies or the thirty-two sonatas, they form an essential planet in the composer's galaxy, the most famous star being of course "the emperor or concertos," the Fifth. But they all have their secret charms and beauty.
Finished in 1806, the Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 is played for the first time in public on December 22, 1808 in Vienna at the same time as the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies: such a concert really did take place! Dedicated to the Archduke Rodolphe who was his pupil, the work is an absolute masterpiece. In it Beethoven breaks free from all the limits of the genre, and appears to let the piano improvise: the modern concert is born, with its incomparable expressivity and ease freed from all formal constraints.
Barenboim plays Debussy (concert & documentary)