Daniel Barenboim: Music as an Instrument of Peace

Maria Boado

Learn how Daniel Barenboim, a famous concert pianist, has stimulated communication between different cultures via The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, an orchestra of young Palestinian and Israeli children.

Concert pianist, orchestra conductor, teacher, lecturer and writer, Daniel Barenboim is one of the world’s leading musicians, whose virtuosity and generosity have left an imprint of commitment and consistency. The artist has decided to face the important issues of his generation rather than stay locked inside of an ivory tower.

Daniel Baremboim
Daniel Barenboim. PHOTOS: © Heila Rock, Monika Ritterhaus, Luis Castilla

Born in Buenos Aires in 1942 to a family of Jewish immigrants from Russia, the talented artist lived in Argentina until the family decided to move to Israel when he was just ten years old. Two years after settling in Israel, his parents sent him to study in Europe’s music capital, Salzburg. Since then he has lived in several European and and North American cities, following the demands of an illustrious music career. These circumstances shaped the distinctly cosmopolitan personality of a man who advocates for a world in which cultural differences are not the cause of conflict among people, but rather an element that enriches our lives and brings us together. But first let us look at his world, a place where he has excelled as one of the most important classical musicians of the second half of the 20th century.

Daniel Baremboim
1. Daniel Barenboim.  /  2. Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. PHOTOS: © Heila Rock, Monika Ritterhaus, Luis Castilla

Daniel Barenboim was a precocious child. When he was only five years old he began to study piano under tutelage of his father. By the time he was eight, he presented his first concert. He completed his musical training under Igor Markévich and Nadia Boulanger.

In 1962, after a triumphant piano career working with renowned directors, such as Sir John Barbirolli, Otto Klemperer and Leopold Stokowski, he made his debut in Tel Aviv as conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Manchester (UK). This moment marked the beginning of his successful career as conductor, which led him to direct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 15 years. Since conducting Don Giovanni at the 1973 Edinburgh Festival, his reputation as a prestigious opera conductor was consolidated. As a result he was appointed musical director of La Scala in Milan and Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden, positions he continues to hold to this day.

His vision of music as a universal language that stimulates communication between different worlds and establishes an ongoing dialogue between peoples, emphasizes the spirit of tolerance and multiculturalism that led him to join Edward Said, a Palestinian thinker, to create an orchestra of young Palestinian and Israeli children. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is their contribution to Jewish and Arab understanding. This noble endeavor earned Barenboim and Said the 2002 Prince of Asturias Concord Award. Barenboim is a citizen of the world. Nationalized Spanish and Palestinian, the Israeli musician has shown courage, and never shunned controversy, even when it meant rejection from some of his countrymen.  ■

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