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Classical Features

Who Is Daniel Barenboim? Discover His Music

Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim is one of the most famous classical musicians on the planet. Discover more about his life and music.

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Daniel Barenboim. Photo: Decca Classics

Daniel Barenboim is one of the most famous classical musicians on the planet and one of the greatest artists of our time. As a pianist he is particularly admired for his interpretations of the works of Mozart and Beethoven. Since his conducting debut in 1967 he has been in great demand as a conductor with the world’s leading orchestras. Daniel Barenboim was married to cellist Jacqueline du Pré and they became the music industry’s golden couple. In 1999 he founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, with the academic Edward Said, which features Arab and Israeli musicians. Daniel Barenboim is currently music director of the Berlin Sate Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin. Discover more about his life and music.

Listen to Daniel Barenboim’s recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Falstaff, the latest release in his acclaimed Elgar series, right now.

Who is Daniel Barenboim? When was he born?

Daniel Barenboim is a pianist and conductor who was born in Argentina.

The young Barenboim moved to Israel with his family in 1952 and two years later he met the legendary conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who labelled Barenboim a “phenomenon”.

In 1955 he studied with the renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in Paris and in 1967 he married the British cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

What nationality is Daniel Barenboim?

Daniel Barenboim was born in Argentina but is now also a citizen of Israel, Palestine and Spain.

Who is Michael Barenboim?

Michael Barenboim is Daniel Barenboim’s son with his second wife, Elena Bashkirova. Michael is a top violinist who frequently performs with his father as a solo performer and as the concertmaster of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. He is also Head of Chamber Music at the Barenboim-Said Academy.

Daniel Barenboim’s career

Barenboim made his international piano debut in 1952 in Vienna and Rome. Over the next few years he performed with conductor Leopold Stokowski in Paris, London and New York.

In 1969 Barenboim took part in what has since become a legendary performance of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet. Barenboim on the piano was joined by violinist Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta on double bass, Jacquline du Pré on cello and Pinchas Zukerman playing viola.

Barenboim has become world-renowned as an opera conductor and he made his debut in that role in 1973, conducting Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Edinburgh Festival.

In 1991 he took over from Sir Georg Solti as music director of the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra (a post he only left in 2006) and in 1992 he was made music director of the Berlin State Opera and the Staatskapelle Berlin.

In 1999 Daniel Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, together with the academic Edward Said. The orchestra brings together musicians from Israel, the Palestinian territories and Arab countries to study and perform together. Daniel Barenboim’s recording of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and Symphony No. 7, with Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, released in May 2020, celebrates a triple anniversary – the 20th birthday of the Orchestra, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and it was released 40 years after the legendary Triple Concerto recording made by Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma under Herbert von Karajan.

In 2012 Barenboim took the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to the BBC Proms where they performed a Beethoven symphony cycle, with the Ninth Symphony falling on the day of the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Once the concert was over, Barenboim headed to the Olympic opening ceremony to be a flag carrier.

Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré

Barenboim met the young cellist Jacqueline du Pré in 1966 and the pair married at the Western Wall, Jerusalem on 15 June 1967 – du Pré having converted to Judaism.

The brilliant young pair became music’s golden couple and performed works around the world including Dvorák and Schumann’s Cello Concertos.

In 1973, du Pré was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and she made her final recording in 1971. Her condition worsened, forcing her to eventually stop playing entirely – her final London performance was of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, a work which had become her calling card, in February 1973, with conductor Zubin Mehta. Her last public performance came later that month in New York, when she performed Brahms’ Double Concerto with violinist Pinchas Zukerman and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic.

Jacqueline du Pré died in 1987 at the age of 42 and is buried in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery. She continues to be one of the most famous cellists who ever lived and her recording of Elgar’s Cello Concerto is still regarded as a benchmark for all other performances.

Daniel Barenboim’s great recordings

Daniel Barenboim’s discography is phenomenal and encompasses opera, symphonies, chamber music and solo piano recordings. His most recent album, Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Falstaff with the Staatskapelle Berlin and Latvian soprano Elīna Garanča, was released on 24 July 2020. This is the latest recording in Daniel Barenboim’s acclaimed Elgar series, which includes The Dream of Gerontius, Symphonies 1 & 2 and Elgar’s Cello Concerto (performed by Alisa Weilerstein).

Daniel Barenboim’s recording of Elgar’s Sea Pictures and Falstaff, featuring Elīna Garanča and Staatskapelle Berlin, is out now and can be bought here.

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