Born on November 15, 1942, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; son of Enrique and Aida (Schuster) Barenboim; married Jacqueline DuPré, 1967; widowed in 1987; married Elena Bashkirova, 1988; two children. Education: Mozarteum, Salzburg, Austria; Accademia Chigiana, Sienna; Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, graduated 1956. Addresses: Home--29 rue de la Coulouvreniere, 1204, Geneva, Switzerland; Office--c/o Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Synnene Carline, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60604-2596.

Emotional at times and always a perfectionist, Daniel Barenboim has graced the concert stages of Europe, Asia, North America, Australia, and the Middle East, performing in parallel careers both as an inspired pianist and as a respected conductor. Barenboim, an Israeli musician born in Argentina during World War II, began his musical career as a young piano prodigy in the late 1940s. He debuted in concert at age seven, thereafter spending much of the 1950s in studies with the greatest teachers and musicians of the time. In the early 1960s, Barenboim embarked on a conducting career, performing a London debut in 1967 with the New Philharmonic Orchestra.

For more than half a century, Barenboim amassed impeccable credentials as both conductor and pianist--performing in both capacities with the English Chamber Orchestra, and as founder of the Mozart Festival in 1982, director of London's South Bank Music, musical director of the French Orchestre de Paris, and as director of the Israel Festival. In 1991, Barenboim assumed command of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and in the following year he took control of the State Opera of Berlin. Included in his extensive repertoire--both as pianist and as conductor--were the 32 sonatas and five concertos of Ludwig von Beethoven. He distinguished himself in performing those works on the piano under the direction of Otto Klemperer and in conducting the compositions with the late Arthur Rubenstein at piano. In 2000 he attempted a piano performance of the five concertos while conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In addition to a classical repertoire encompassing Mozart, Liszt, and others, Barenboim's contemporary repertoire included the works of such masters as Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, and Debussy.

Barenboim was born on November 15, 1942, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He began his musical studies at age five. During those early years he studied under the direction of his Russian-Jewish parents, Enrique and Aida (Schuster) Barenboim, each of whom were accomplished pianists. Young Barenboim's talent became evident when the family moved to Europe in 1951. In Paris, the boy was recognized as a prodigy, and having performed his first concert in South America at age seven he then debuted in Vienna in 1952 at nine years of age. The family's one-year sojourn in Europe was followed by a permanent move to Tel Aviv, Israel, where Barenboim spent his adolescence. He was ten years old at the time of the move to the Middle East, and as in Europe, his talent as a prodigy was readily apparent.

During the remainder of the 1950s, Barenboim debuted on record and on stages around the world. His first recording appeared in 1954, and in 1955 he debuted in London on the occasion of the Mozart bicentennial celebration. In 1957, a performance of the First Piano Concerto by Prokofiev marked his New York debut with Leopold Stokowski conducting. Additionally during the 1950s, Barenboim studied with many great masters throughout Europe. During the course of the decade he spent time at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and at the Accademia Chigiana in Sienna, Italy. He studied under the most prominent music teachers in Europe, including Edwin Fischer, and later Nadia Boulanger in Paris. In Germany, Barenboim learned the art of conducting from Igor Markevich, and in 1956 he received a diploma from the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. At Santa Cecilia, Barenboim distinguished himself--at age 14--as the youngest graduate in the history of that institution. The renowned pianist, Arthur Rubenstein, an acquaintance of Barenboim's parents, also assisted in the mentoring of the young Barenboim.

Performed as Pianist

Barenboim performed extensively as a pianist with the English Chamber Orchestra, beginning in the 1960s and through much of the 1970s. His debut with that organization in 1964 featured Barenboim performing the Mozart Piano Concertos. He continued on tour with the chamber orchestra for more than a decade and appeared with the group throughout England, Japan, and the United States. In addition to Mozart's works, their many performances together featured the music of Beethoven, Brahms, and Sir John Barbirolli. Barenboim's extensive piano repertoire spanned to Chopin and Schubert, and under the direction of Otto Klemperer, Barenboim ably performed the 32 Sonatas and five concertos of Beethoven.

In a landmark performance in 1966, Barenboim performed for the first time with cellist Jacqueline DuPré. The occasion marked the beginning of an extensive collaboration between Barenboim and DuPré, who were married in Israel during the following year. A magnificent professional pairing ensued, and the couple was joined frequently in chamber recitals by the finest string players in the world, including Zubin Mehta, Itzhak Perlman, and Pinchas Zukerman. The partnership between the Barenboims was far too brief, however, and ended tragically when DuPré was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1973. At that time she abandoned her cello playing forever. DuPré died in 1987.

As the 1990s drew to a close, the turn of the millenium in 2000 brought Barenboim to the recording studio as well as to Carnegie Hall and other venues repeatedly as a pianist. The year 1996 saw the release of Barenboim's popular piano recording, Tangos Among Friends,and in 1997 Teldec released a piano duet--Schubert's Marches Militairesand "Grand Duo" (Sonata in C Major)--featuring Barenboim and Tchaikovsky-award-winning pianist, Radu Lupu. Richard Freed of Stereo Reviewpraised the recording as one in which, "... [F]astidiousness and spontaneity coexist on an almost unimaginable level ... first-rate and beautifully tailored to this particular material."

It was Barenboim who accompanied Placido Domingo at the tenor's New York recital debut on January 30, 2000. Also in January of 2000, Barenboim performed the Schoenberg Piano Concerto under the baton of Pierre Boulez at Carnegie Hall. Earlier, in 1999, Barenboim interpreted jazz classics on stage and on record in his Tribute to Ellington,with Dianne Reeves on vocals. Additionally he has appeared in chamber recitals with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In 2000, when Barenboim brought his Chicago Symphony to Carnegie Hall for a series of three performances with him as the featured pianist, New Criterion'sJay Nordlinger praised the performance of "The Mozart [Concerto No. 25 in] C Major ... bold and grand, in true Barenboim style. This was the antithesis of dainty, drawing-room Mozart." Of Barenboim's Bruckner (Symphony No. 4), Nordlinger went on to say, "He held the piece--which can easily overwhelm even a good conductor--in the palm of his hand. He communicated effortlessly to the orchestra; every gesture, every movement, every glance, was musical. He is one of those conductors who seem to enact their interpretation on the podium, though not self-consciously or obtrusively." Indeed, whereas Barenboim's bold keyboard style has been criticized as too harsh at times, he is nonetheless renowned for his flowing arpeggios and emphatically punctuated tones, which moreover serve to recall the notable influence of Rubenstein on Barenboim's early musical development.

Earned Notoriety as Conductor

Barenboim launched his conducting career in Israel in 1962 and toured extensively during the 1960s as both a conductor and pianist. From 1968 to 1970 he served as artistic director for London's South Bank Music then directed the Israeli Festival from 1973 through 1975. Among his many operatic productions, Barenboim conducted Mozart's Don Giovanniin Edinburgh in 1973 and Marriage of Figaroin 1975. Also in 1975, he conducted a farewell performance of the late Arthur Rubenstein in concert with the London Philharmonic. That year Barenboim accepted the position of musical director of the Orchestre de Paris, a position that ignited his notoriety as a conductor. Under Barenboim's leadership for 14 years, the group established a reputation for their performance of contemporary works including the music of Lutoslawsky, Berio, Boulez, Henze, and Duilleux.

In 1981 Barenboim brought Tristan and Isoldeto Bayreuth (Bavaria) for his debut there, and in 1982 he founded a Mozart Festival and oversaw that organization until 1989. He then abandoned his other commitments to head a new organization, called the Opera de Paris. Although the commission failed to materialize, within two years Barenboim relocated to the United States in September of 1997 in order to accept a position as director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra behind Sir George Solti. Barenboim's performances as both conductor and soloist with that group were featured on several recordings and extended into the twenty-first century. As the leader of the Chicago Symphony in the late 1990s, Barenboim led the group through many concerts at Carnegie Hall, including presentations of the works of Anton Bruckner and Mahler. In 1992 Barenboim signed as the head of the Deutsche Staatsoper (State Opera) of Berlin and continued in that capacity for many years as well.

Barenboim, who debuted Alexaner Goehr's "Konzert Für Klavier" and "Sinfonia" in 1972 and 1980 respectively, also accepted the honor of presenting the world debut of Darius Milhaud's "Ode pour Jerusalem" in 1973. Other works debuted by Barenboim included Pierre Boulez's Notation IIin 1982, and Notation 5-8with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during the 1997-98 season. Also that season he presented the debut of Luciano Berio's Continuoand Ralph Shapey's Concerto Fantastique.Barenboim also introduced "Fandango" by Hans Werner Henze in 1986, and in February of 2000, he led the Chicago Symphony through the world debut of Elliott Carter's first opera, What If?, and then took the work on tour throughout that year.

Historic West Bank Performance

On January 29, 1999, Barenboim performed an historic concert at Birzeit University in Palestine. It was his first concert ever on the war-torn West Bank of the contested Israeli-Palestinian territory and the first time an Israeli artist had made a public appearance in the territory since its seizure from Jordan. Barenboim, who performed Beethoven's Symphony Pathetique,shared the concert stage with Palestinian pianist Salim Abboud in a rendition of March Militaireby Schubert. Additionally, he spent time that year in collaboration with Wynton Marsalis at Lincoln Center. In addition to Barenboim's recorded piano presentation, Tribute to Ellington,in 1999, he and the Chicago Symphony joined Marsalis in a concert presentation of Peer Gynt,juxtaposing the original Grieg compositions with the Ellington/Billy Strayhorn adaptation. Barenboim's agenda for 2000 was cluttered with concerts at Carnegie Hall concerts, including a presentation of Carter's opera in March of 2000. Among other plans for 2000, Barenboim--well-noted for his boldness--announced that his plan to conduct, while simultaneously performing on piano, all of the Beethoven concertos, despite apprehension from the critical community.

Barenboim, who received the Beethoven Medal in 1958 and the Harriet Cohen Paderwski Centenary prize in 1963, was inducted in 1987 into the French Legion of Honor. During much of his career he made his home in London before moving to France and elsewhere. Barenboim, who fathered two children, married concert pianist Elena Bashkirova on November 28, 1988. His autobiography, A Life in Music, was published in England in 1991 by George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd. An American edition appeared the following year.

by Gloria Cooksey

Daniel Barenboim's Career

Artistic adviser, Israel Festival, 1971-74; musical director, Orchestre de Paris, 1975-89; conductor and accompanist: English Chamber Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1991--; director, Staatsoper Berlin, 1992--.

Daniel Barenboim's Awards

Beethoven Medal, 1958; Harriet Cohen Paderewski Centenary Prize, 1963; Member, Legion of Honor, France, 1987.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

June 17, 2006: Barenboim led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the final time as its music director. Source:,, June 26, 2006.

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 16 years ago

Barenboim did not conduct Ralph Shapey's Concerto Fantastique. At the last minute, Barenboim withdrew from the concert for health reasons, and Shapey conducted his own piece.