November 15, 1942
Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim is born in Buenos Aires to Russian-Jewish immigrants.
At age 5, he begins taking piano lessons from his father, who remains his teacher. He moves to Israel with his family in the early 1950s. He studies piano all over the world, including Salzburg, Paris and New York. He has served as the music director of the Paris Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Scala, and, since 1992, the Berlin State Opera and Berlin Staatskapelle (State Orchestra). He is named the Berlin Staatskapelle’s director for life in 2000.
Barenboim founds the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with scholar Edward Said in Sevilla, Spain, in 1999. Each summer it brings together young Israeli and Palestinian performers, as well as musicians from other Middle Eastern countries, to find harmony and build bridges through music.
Barenboim courts controversy. For example, he conducts music by Wagner, a rabid anti-Semite known as Nazis’ favorite composer, during an encore at a festival at the Jerusalem cultural center in 2001.
He is a vocal critic of Israel and its government. He thinks that Israelis are losing “all sense of decency and humanity” because of its control of Palestinian territory, according to an interview in June 2017. In another interview, he compares Israel to Iran: “The Iranian government still denies the Holocaust, so you can’t take them seriously. And the Israeli government spreads rumors and disinformation about Iran because it needs to for the creation of panic. I find these theological states — and in this respect Israel and Iran are twin brothers — very, very dangerous.”
Barenboim holds four citizenships: Israeli, Argentinian, Spanish, and, in a rarity granted in 2008, Palestinian. He lives in Berlin with his second wife, Elena Bashkirova, with whom he has two sons.