Daniel Barenboim

public profile

Is your surname Barenboim?

Research the Barenboim family

Daniel Barenboim's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Daniel Barenboim

Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Immediate Family:

Son of Enrique Barenboim and Aída Barenboim (Schuster)
Husband of <private> (Bashkirova)
Widower of Jacqueline du Pre
Father of <private> Barenboim and Michael Barenboim

Occupation: Virtuoso pianist, conductor
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
view all

Immediate Family

About Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim (born 15 November 1942) is an Argentine-born Israeli pianist and conductor. He is also known for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a Sevilla-based orchestra of young Arab and Jewish musicians.


Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His grandparents were Russian Ashkenazi Jews. He started piano lessons at the age of five with his mother, continuing to study with his father Enrique, who remained his only teacher. In August 1950, at the age of seven, he gave his first formal concert in Buenos Aires.

Daniel Barenboim, age 11, with the Gadna Symphonic orchestra and conductor Moshe Lustig, 1953

In 1952, the Barenboim family moved to Israel. Two years later, in the summer of 1954, his parents brought him to Salzburg to take part in Igor Markevitch's conducting classes. During that summer he also met and played for Wilhelm Furtwängler, who has remained a central musical influence and ideal for Barenboim. Furtwängler called the young Barenboim a "phenomenon" and invited him to perform the Beethoven First Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic, but Barenboim's father told the maestro that it was too soon after the Holocaust for a child of Jewish parents to be performing in Berlin.

In 1955 Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Barenboim made his debut as a pianist in Vienna and Rome in 1952, Paris in 1955, London in 1956, and New York in 1957 under the baton of Leopold Stokowski. Regular concert tours of Europe, the United States, South America, Australia and the Far East followed thereafter.

Barenboim with Jacqueline du Pré reviewing a score.

In 1967 Daniel Barenboim married the renowned British cellist Jacqueline du Pré at the Western Wall, Jerusalem. The marriage lasted until her death from multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987. His friendship with musicians Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, and Pinchas Zukerman, and marriage to du Pré led to the famous film by Christopher Nupen of their Schubert "Trout" Quintet. Collectively, the five referred to themselves as The Kosher Nostra.

After suffering symptoms for more than a year, du Pré was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and retired from music in 1973. In the early 1980s, during his marriage to du Pré, Barenboim began a relationship with the Russian pianist Elena Bashkirova, with whom he had two sons born in Paris: David Arthur, born 1983, and Michael Barenboim, born 1985. Both were born prior to du Pré's death in 1987. Barenboim tried to keep his relationship with Bashkirova hidden from du Pré and believes he succeeded. He and Bashkirova married in 1988. David is a manager-writer for the German hip-hop band Level 8, and Michael is a classical violinist.

He lives in Berlin and holds citizenship in Argentina, Israel, and Spain. He also holds a passport issued by the Palestinian Authority. Barenboim first came to prominence as a pianist but is now perhaps better known as a conductor.

Music career

Barenboim made his first recording in 1954 and went on to record several complete cycles:

the piano sonatas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

the piano sonatas of Ludwig van Beethoven

the piano concertos by Mozart, as both conductor and pianist

the piano concertos of Beethoven, first with Otto Klemperer and later as conductor and pianist with the Berlin Philharmonic

the piano concertos of Johannes Brahms, with John Barbirolli and Zubin Mehta

the piano concertos of Béla Bartók, with Pierre Boulez

Following his debut as a conductor with the English Chamber Orchestra in Abbey Road Studios, London in 1966, Barenboim was invited to conduct by many European and American symphony orchestras. Between 1975 and 1989 he was music director of the Orchestre de Paris, where he conducted much contemporary music.

Barenboim made his opera conducting debut in 1973 with a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni at the Edinburgh Festival. He made his debut at Bayreuth in 1981, conducting there regularly until 1999.

Barenboim served as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1991 up to 17 June 2006. Barenboim expressed frustration with the need for fund-raising duties in the United States as part of being a music director of an American orchestra.

Barenboim, whose home is in Berlin, has been music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden (Berlin State Opera) and the Berlin Staatskapelle since 1992. He has tried to maintain the orchestra's traditional East-Germanic sound and style. He has constantly worked to maintain the independent status of the Staatsoper. He now is conductor for life at the Berlin State Opera. On 15 May 2006 Barenboim was named principal guest conductor of the La Scala opera house, in Milan, Italy.

In 2006, Barenboim was the BBC Reith Lecturer, giving five lectures called 'In the Beginning was Sound' from London, Chicago, Berlin, and twice from Jerusalem in which he meditated on music, how it is created, one's experience of it, and its place in life. In the autumn of 2006, Barenboim gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University entitled 'Sound and Thought'.

In November 2006, Lorin Maazel caused some controversy by submitting to the board of directors of the New York Philharmonic (NYP) Barenboim's name as his nominee to succeed him as the NYP's music director. Barenboim, in turn, responded that while he was flattered, "nothing could be further from my thoughts at the moment than the possibility of returning to the United States for a permanent position." In January 2007, Barenboim further demurred on this question by generally stating his lack of interest in any United States music directorship, "at the moment." In April 2007, it was reported that Barenboim expressed no interest in either the New York Philharmonic's music directorship or their newly created principal conductor position.

In 2008 he was given the honour to conduct the world famous New Year Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on the first of January 2009.

Barenboim made his conducting debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York for the House's 450th performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde on 28 November 2008.

In the beginning of his career, Barenboim gained widespread acceptance mainly as a pianist. He concentrated on music of the classical era, as well as some romantic composers. Notable classical recordings include the complete cycles of Mozart's and Beethoven's piano sonatas, and Mozart's piano concertos (in the latter, taking part as both soloist and conductor). Notable Romantic recordings include: Brahms's piano concertos (with John Barbirolli), Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte, and Chopin's nocturnes. Barenboim also recorded many chamber works, especially in collaboration with his first wife, Jacqueline du Pré, the violinist Itzhak Perlman, and the violinist and violist Pinchas Zukerman. Noted performances include: the complete Mozart violin sonatas (with Perlman), Brahms's violin sonatas (live concert with Perlman, previously in the studio with Zukerman), Beethoven's and Brahms's cello sonatas (with du Pré), Beethoven's and Tchaikovsky's piano trios (with du Pré and Zukerman), and Schubert's Trout Quintet (with du Pré, Perlman, Zukerman, and Zubin Mehta).

Notable recordings as a conductor include: the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Schumann, many operas by Wagner, and various concertos. Barenboim has written about his changing attitude to the music of Gustav Mahler; he has recorded Mahler's Fifth, Seventh and Ninth Symphonies and Das Lied von der Erde. He has also performed and recorded the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo and Heitor Villa-Lobos guitar concerto with John Williams as the guitar soloist.

In his later years, Barenboim widened his concert repertoire, performing works by baroque as well as twentieth-century classical composers. Examples include: Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (which he has played since childhood) and Goldberg Variations, Albeniz's Iberia, and Debussy's preludes. In addition, he turned to other musical genres, such as jazz, and the folk music of his birthplace, Argentina. He conducted the 2006 New Year's Eve concert in Buenos Aires, in which tangos were played.

Barenboim has rejected musical fashions based on current musicological research, such as the authentic performance movement (see quotation at the end of this paragraph). A notable example is his preference for some traditional practices, rather than fully adhering to Bärenreiter's new edition (edited by Jonathan Del Mar) of Beethoven's symphonies, in his recording of those works. Barenboim has opposed the practice of choosing the tempo of a piece based on historical evidence, such as composer metronome marks. He argues instead for finding the tempo from within the music, especially from its harmony and harmonic rhythm. The general tempi chosen in his recording of Beethoven's symphonies, reflecting this belief, usually adhere to early twentieth-century tradition, and are not influenced by faster tempos chosen by other conductors such as Roger Norrington and David Zinman. In Barenboim's recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier he makes frequent use of the right-foot sustaining pedal, a device absent from the keyboard instruments of Bach's time (although the harpsichord was highly resonant), producing a sonority very different from the "dry" and often staccato sound favored by the influential (and highly individual) pianist Glenn Gould. Moreover, in the fugues, one voice is often played considerably louder than the others, a practice impossible on a harpsichord, which according to some scholarship, began in Beethoven's time (see, for example, Matthew Dirst's book The Iconic Bach). Indeed, when justifying his interpretation of Bach, Barenboim claims that he is interested in the long tradition of playing Bach, that has existed for two and a half centuries, rather than in the exact style of performance that existed in Bach's time:

The study of old instruments and historic performance practice has taught us a great deal, but the main point, the impact of harmony, has been ignored. This is proved by the fact that tempo is described as an independent phenomenon. It is claimed that one of Bach's gavottes must be played fast and another one slowly. But tempo is not independent! ... I think that concerning oneself purely with historic performance practice and the attempt to reproduce the sound of older styles of music-making is limiting and no indication of progress. Mendelssohn and Schumann tried to introduce Bach into their own period, as did Liszt with his transcriptions and Busoni with his arrangements. In America Leopold Stokowski also tried to do it with his arrangements for orchestra. This was always the result of "progressive" efforts to bring Bach closer to the particular period. I have no philosophical problem with someone playing Bach and making it sound like Boulez. My problem is more with someone who tries to imitate the sound of that time...

Barenboim has continued to perform and record chamber music, sometimes with members of the orchestras he has led. Some examples include the Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen with members of the Orchestre de Paris during his tenure there, Richard Strauss with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during his tenure there, and the Clarinet Trio of Mozart with members of the Berlin Staatskapelle.

Daniel Barenboim conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra's New Year's Day Concert 2009 in Der Musikverein, (http://www.wienerphilharmoniker.at/) He had a short message to the audience in which he stated: "Let's pray for human justice in the Middle East".

Conducting Wagner in Israel

On 7 July 2001, Barenboim led the Berlin Staatskapelle in part of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem. The concert sparked controversy. Wagner's music had been unofficially taboo in Israel's concert halls (although recordings of it were widely purchased and listened to) because of revulsion with the racial anti-Semitism that Wagner had espoused in print - which presaged and quite likely influenced Hitler. Previously the Palestine Philharmonic had performed Wagner's music. Barenboim had long opposed the ban, regarding it as reflecting what he calls a "diaspora" mentality that is no longer appropriate to Israel. In a conversation with Edward Said (published in the book Parallels and Paradoxes) he says that "Wagner, the person, is absolutely appalling, despicable, and, in a way, very difficult to put together with the music he wrote, which so often has exactly the opposite kind of feelings ... noble, generous, etc." He calls Wagner's anti-Semitism obviously "monstrous", and feels it must be faced, and argues that "Wagner did not cause the Holocaust."

Barenboim originally had been scheduled to perform the first act of Die Walküre with three singers, including tenor Plácido Domingo. However, strong protests by some Holocaust survivors, as well as the Israeli government, led the festival authorities to ask for an alternative program. (The Israel Festival's Public Advisory board, which included some Holocaust survivors, had originally approved the program.)

Barenboim agreed to substitute music by Robert Schumann and Igor Stravinsky for the offending piece, but expressed regret at the decision. At the end of the concert he announced that he would play Wagner as an encore and invited those who objected to hearing the music to leave, saying, "Despite what the Israel Festival believes, there are people sitting in the audience for whom Wagner does not spark Nazi associations. I respect those for whom these associations are oppressive. It will be democratic to play a Wagner encore for those who wish to hear it. I am turning to you now and asking whether I can play Wagner." A half-hour debate ensued in Hebrew in the hall, with some audience members calling Barenboim a "fascist." In the end, according to reports in the Israeli press, about 50 attendees walked out, and about 1000 remained, applauding loudly after the performance. (According to Israeli newspaper interviews, at least one who remained in attendance was a Holocaust survivor, again undermining the simple assertion that all survivors opposed the performance of Wagner in Israel.)

Barenboim regarded the performance of Wagner as a political statement, and said he had decided to defy the taboo on Wagner when a news conference he held the previous week was interrupted by the ringing of a mobile phone to the tune of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. "I thought if it can be heard on the ring of a telephone, why can't it be played in a concert hall?" he said.

In 2005, Barenboim gave the inaugural Edward Said Memorial Lecture at Columbia University, on the theme Wagner, Israel and Palestine.

Political views

Barenboim has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli settlements and of Israel's government since Rabin. He is also a supporter of Palestinian rights.

With respect to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Barenboim has spoken about the need for both sides to begin to understand each other:

"There is no way Israel will deal with the Palestinians if the Palestinians do not understand the suffering of the Jewish people ... [N]ow fifty years after that we have to accept co-responsibility for Palestinian suffering. Until an Israeli leader is able to utter those words there will be no peace."

In an interview with British music critic Norman Lebrecht in 2003, he accused the Israeli government of behaving in a manner which was, "morally abhorrent and strategically wrong", and, "putting in danger the very existence of the state of Israel."

As a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians, Barenboim has performed in Ramallah although Israeli authorities warned him that it was dangerous.

In 1999, Barenboim jointly founded the West-Eastern Divan orchestra with Palestinian-American intellectual Edward Said, who was a close friend. It is an initiative to bring together, every summer, a group of talented young classical musicians from Israel and Arab countries. Barenboim and Said were among the recipients of the 2002 Prince of Asturias Awards for their work in "improving understanding between nations".

Barenboim wrote a book with Said, Parallels and Paradoxes, based on a series of public discussions held at New York's Carnegie Hall.

In September 2005, Barenboim refused to be interviewed by uniformed Israel Defense Forces Radio reporter Dafna Arad, considering the wearing of the uniform insensitive to the Palestinians present. Then Israeli Minister of Education, Limor Livnat (Likud), was quoted as describing Barenboim as "a real Jew hater" and "a real anti-semite."

In December 2007, Barenboim and 20 musicians from England, the United States, France and Germany, and one Palestinian were scheduled to play a baroque music concert in Gaza. Although they had received authorization from Israeli authorities, the Palestinian was stopped at the Israel-Gaza border and told that he needed individual permission to enter. The group waited seven hours at the border, and then canceled the concert in solidarity. Barenboim commented: "A baroque music concert in a Roman Catholic church in Gaza - as we all know - has nothing to do with security and would bring so much joy to people who live there in great difficulty."

On 12 January 2008, after a concert in Ramallah, Barenboim accepted honorary Palestinian citizenship, becoming the first Israeli citizen to be offered the status. Barenboim said he hoped it would serve as a public gesture of peace. Some Israelis criticized Barenboim's decision to accept Palestinian citizenship. The leader of the Shas party demanded that Barenboim be stripped of his Israeli citizenship.

In January 2008, the UFO religion Raëlian Movement nominated Barenboim an "Honorary Guide" "for his actions towards more peace in the Middle East and for championing Palestinian's [sic] rights while being a citizen of Israel." .

In January 2009, Barenboim cancelled two concerts of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Qatar and Cairo "due to the escalating violence in Gaza and the resulting concerns for the musicians’ safety", according to the BBC.

view all

Daniel Barenboim's Timeline

November 15, 1942
Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina