In his long and illustrious career, Daniel Barenboim has achieved the rare distinction of staying at the top of his field both as a pianist and as a conductor. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the past half-century. But he is also one of the world’s great public figures, with unique contributions to the advancement of musical education and to exploring pathways to peace in one of the most bitter and intractable international conflicts of modern times.
His recent announcement that he would withdraw from public performance, at least temporarily, due to a neurological condition, came as a shock to his many admirers. The Guardian editorialised on 10 October 2022 that his role as a musician and as a public figure were inseparable: “He stands in the tradition of Arturo Toscanini, Pablo Casals and Yehudi Menuhin as a classical musical giant who is also a thinker and a moral beacon. In modern times, there has been no one to compare with him.”
As well as his dedication to making music, Barenboim has demonstrated his qualities as a humanist with a bold vision of the place of music in the world. “Harmony in personal and international relations,” he observed, “can only exist by listening, each party opening its ears to the other’s narrative or point of view.” One of his most imaginative ventures has been to bring music to bear on the conflict between Israel and its neighbours. [Continue reading…]