National University of Music Bucharest
12thof October 2011
Festive Gathering of the NUMB Senate



        In the beginning of his book published in 2008, Everything is connected, Daniel Barenboim observes – with the clarity, honesty and finesse that characterize his literary style – the privilege that expressing through music has over expressing through words. ”Our thoughts take shape in words; therefore, the words on the page must compete with the words in our minds. Music has a much larger world of associations at its disposal precisely because of its ambivalence nature; it is both inside and outside the world.” We know it’s impossible to describe music through words and that – Daniel Barenboim points this out – we actually express the subjective reaction we get from music. Only by paraphrasing this statement will I be able to briefly describe a legendary personality; I will thus resort to subjective reactions.
        During the same week in June 1997, getting to know Berlin for the first time, I attended a show of Wozzeck, directed by Patrice Chéreau (Staatsoper Unter den Linden), conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and a Mozart concert at Konzerthaus in Berlin, where Barenboim performed with Radu Lupu and conducted his pianist colleague. Between the two events, Daniel Barenboim vivaciously found time to accompany Placido Domingo in a concert. Coming from a country where I still felt provincial and marginal, the intense activity of a musician I was familiar with – as a pianist – ever since my music school days, left the most lasting impression amid everything I experienced in one month in Berlin. I asked myself how an artist could do so many different things – judging by the type of show, involvement or repertoire. I soon found out that this was the natural regime of artistic activity for Daniel Barenboim.
        I only knew the name of one of the great pianists – and then conductors – of the world, but I found out that the musician had long ago made phenomenal steps towards other fields. He had been a child prodigy and was preoccupied to create ways in which young people could be introduced to music: this is why he supports musical education in Sevilla, West Bank and Nazareth and founded music kindergartens in Ramallah (2004) and Berlin (2005). The two cities are emblematic in defining the unique place of Daniel Barenboim among the artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Born in Buenos Aires in 1942, in a Jewish Russian family that moved to Israel after 10 years, rapidly launching an international career announced by the words of Furtwängler ("the eleven year-old Barenboim is a phenomenon …"), Daniel Barenboim represents today a symbol of music as political power.

        A character of Thomas Mann saw music as “politically suspect”. Daniel Barenboim’s friend, the American-Palestinian writer Edward Said, once stated that music “is a little bit subversive”. Both will manage to transform music into a political instrument, in a way nobody thought of doing. They founded in 1999 the project West-Eastern Divan, to bring together in an exquisite orchestra, musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries. And by making music together, they learned – despite the gap that could separate them – to collaborate, listen and complete each other, providing a lesson of humanity to the entire world. Gradually, the orchestra with its headquarters in Seville, imposed itself on the great European and North-American scenes, in the most important festivals, and in 2005 gave a memorable concert at the Cultural Palace in Ramallah.
        Daniel Barenboim trenchantly declares the ideas that guided him, encouraged by the passion of musicians in the orchestra and by the fact that “indifference and music making cannot coexist”. It’s no wonder that the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra finds its sources in Goethe’s collection of poems West-östlicher Divan and in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. If this project cannot hope to bring peace in those conflict-torn territories, it first of all aims at creating the premises for an “understanding without which it is impossible even to speak of peace.” Conductor Daniel Barenboim had always pleaded for the significance of music beyond ideology, for the supreme quality of music to indiscriminate on the basis of race, gender or religion. He brought Wagner’s music in Israel, a gesture that seemed impossible in the context of the composer’s anti-Semite statements and the Nazi appropriation of Wagner’s oeuvre.
        To talk about the musician Barenboim in a few minutes is only possible by assuming that everybody knows the important moments of his career. I will only remind you a few dates: after his debut in the ‘50s in several European capitals and New York, after world tours and his first recordings in 1954, Daniel Barenboim became one of the most famous pianists in the world. His complete cycles of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s sonatas and concerts, of Brahms’ and Bartók’s concerts, did not stop him from being more and more preoccupied with conducting: he made his debut in 1967, at the stand of the New Philharmonic Orchestra in London and since then he collaborated with the great orchestras of the world. The plea of conductor Barenboim for modern and contemporary music has become a mark of his personality. As musical director of Orchestre de Paris (1975-1989), he conducted pieces by Lutoslawski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, Takemitsu. Otherwise, as an essayist, he wrote memorable pages on Elliot Carter and Pierre Boulez, thus proving not only his deep understanding for their scores, but also his interest in new sounds.
        Between 1991 and 2006, he succeeded Sir Georg Solti as music director of Chicago Symphony Orchestra and in 1992 he became General Music Director of German State Opera Berlin; in the autumn of 2000, Staatskapelle Berlin appointed him as Chief Conductor for Life. He hasn’t ignored an essential compartment in the life of a musician – chamber music -, performing alongside Jacqueline du Pré, Gregor Piatigorsky, Itzhak Perlman or Pinchas Zukerman and collaborating with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Quasthoff, Rolando Villazón or Dorothea Röschmann.
        For many of his recordings – as a pianist or conductor – at Westminster, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Philips, Sony Classical (CBS Masterworks), BMG, Erato Disques și Teldec Classics International, Daniel Barenboim won numerous Grammy awards. And if we mentioned these, we must say that the list of awards received by the artist is extremely long and prestigious, combining honours and state medals for his humanitarian activity with musical distinctions. Among all these, the honorary title conferred by the National University of Music Bucharest probably remains insignificant. Not for us, members of this university community, who are extremely grateful for moments such as this!
        I, for one, didn’t imagine this when, on the Mezzo television channel, I recently watched the new complete cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas. I was familiar with Daniel Barenboim’s recordings of Beethoven, done several decades ago, I knew – like everybody else – that in 1967 he inaugurated Queen Elizabeth Hall with the 32 sonatas, which he took up once again 10 years later. I knew that the artist considers Beethoven, along with Schönberg, one of the composing leaders and innovators: “Beethoven and Schönberg (…) have left audible fingerprints on the scores of all their successors, and will most likely continue to do so for as long as music is being written.”
        But I learned something new: a pianist can bestow profundity of thought and authority of musical decision on scores he constantly studies, for over 30-40 years. A similar attitude shows that he is not pleased with what he found and continues to deepen his reflection, with a permanently receptive spirit to innovation in music. I find it adequate to end with a quote from Anthony Holden’s article on the recent complete cycle of Beethoven’s works, published in 2008 in The Observer: “Daniel Barenboim is not merely one of the greatest all-round musicians alive - he is one of the few great men of our time. Soon, by rights, he should be named a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. In the meantime, his magisterial Beethoven is not to be missed.”

Prof. Dr. Valentina Sandu-Dediu
(English Version: Simina Neagu)