MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Daniel Barenboim Ends His Tenure at Berlin Staatsoper

The Berlin Staatsoper just released a statement by long-term general director Daniel Barenboim announcing the end of his tenure there for reasons of health: “Unfortunately, my health has deteriorated significantly over the past year. I can no longer provide the performance that is rightly demanded of a general music director. Therefore, I ask for your understanding that I am giving up this position as of 31 January 2023.”

It’s the sad culmination of what has been a very difficult period for the maestro. Over the last few months, he had to cancel the many celebrations that had been organized around his 80th birthday in November.

This will be a sea-change for Berlin in particular, whose musical life the indefatigable Barenboim has dominated for decades.

Filed under: Berlin Staatsoper, Daniel Barenboim, music news

Happy 80th Birthday, Daniel Barenboim!

Lucerne Debut: Daniel Barenboim conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, 1966 © Paul Weber / Lucerne Festival

As a tribute to the phenomenon known as Daniel Barenboim, here’s a collection of memories from his decades at Lucerne Festival.

On 25 August 1966 – the very same year as two other artists who have left a deep impression in recent decades, Bernard Haitink and Claudio Abbado – Daniel Barenboim appeared for the first time before the Festival audience in Lucerne. He was only 23 years old at the time, and yet he confidently played a double role: in piano concertos by Mozart (Jenamy) and Beethoven (Piano Concerto No. 2), he not only appeared as the soloist with the English Chamber Orchestra but also conducted from the keyboard, and he also took to the podium to conduct Bartók’s Divertimento for String Orchestra….


Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, music news

Music of Luca Francesconi at Boulez Saal

Luca Francesconi

Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin continues to buzz with a remarkably varied program of events — including this chamber concert by the Boulez Ensemble directed by Daniel Barenboim. Along with pieces by Beethoven and Schumann, the program offers a chamber-cameo of the fascinating composer Luca Francesconi.

Across the street over at the Staatsoper, Francesconi’s much-produced opera Quartett — based on Heiner Müller’s deconstruction of Les liaisons dangereuses — is at last getting its Berlin premiere. I well remember the US premiere production at the 2017 Spoleto Festival, which I covered for Musical America and Opera Now. And before the pandemic intervened, Francesconi’s new opera Timon of Athens was scheduled to be premiered at the Bayerische Staatsoper.

I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Francesconi and writing about his work for the Boulez Saal program book.

The video above is from an interview last year, when Barenboim premiered Daedalus, a work newly commissioned for Boulez Saal.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, new music, Pierre Boulez Saal

Daniel Barenboim Celebrates 70 Years Onstage

On 19 August 1950, at the age of 7, Daniel Barenboim gave his first public concert in his native Buenos Aires. Just 15 years later, on the same day, came his Salzburg Festival debut — also at the keyboard, when he was the soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic.

At Salzburg, Barenboim performed an all-Beethoven program on the 70th anniversary of his stage debut, including the Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat major, Op. 110, and the Diabelli Variations. The recital will be broadcast on Monday, 24 August, via

Earlier, at the Grosses Festspielhaus, Barenboim led his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in a program of Wagner, Boulez, Schoenberg, and Beethoven. You can also catch a re-broadcast of this concert on available starting 22 August CET; it will also be broadcast on br-klassik on Monday, 7 September, at 18:05 CET.

Salzburg Festival’s President Helga Rabl-Stadler released this statement to mark the occasion” “The philosophy that led Max Reinhardt and Hugo von Hofmannsthal to found the Salzburg Festival 100 years ago also guides the life of the great artist and human being Daniel Barenboim. He is a crusader against the zeitgeist’s vacuity. He is a champion of peace, resisting all setbacks. His active conviction and faith in the power of the arts, particularly in difficult times, is especially inspiring to us in this centenary year.”

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, Salzburg Festival

A Festival of New Music from Boulez Saal in Berlin

Starting today, Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin is presenting a four-day Festival of New Music, which will juxtapose online premieres with works by the hall’s namesake.

Curated by Daniel Barenboim and Emmanuel Pahud, the programs — presented in the the Frank Gehry-designed space — are being streamed on the Boulez-Saal Facebook page as well as on its YouTube channel. These programs will then remain available, free on-demand, for 30 days.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, new music, Pierre Boulez, Pierre Boulez Saal

Divining Harmony: West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra at 20

Tonight and tomorrow, at Berlin’s Philharmonie, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra celebrates the 20th anniversary of its founding by Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said — with a program including guest soloists and longterm artistic collaborators Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma.

I was honored to be asked to write the notes for the Beethoven-Bruckner program.

Tune in at 8pm CET time for a livestream on Arte or on fidelio. The performance will also be available to view on arte between 23 and 30 October here (VPN might be needed, not sure).

Filed under: Anton Bruckner, Beethoven, Daniel Barenboim, West-Eastern Diwan Orchestra

Times Two

One-half at least of the line-up from last night’s piano duo recital at the new Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin. Playing on his custom-made (and, for the occasion, uncovered) Steinways, Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich gave the following program:

MOZART/ Sonata in D Major K. 448 (375a) for Two Pianos
Sonata in F Major K. 497 for Piano Four Hands
SCHUMANN/Studies for Pedal Piano Op. 56 / Arrangement for Two Pianos by Claude Debussy
LISZT/Réminiscences de «Don Juan» de Mozart S 418

Plus, as encores, Debussy’s Lindaraja and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, Pierre Boulez Saal

Martha Argerich

I finally had my first chance to see the fabled Martha Argerich live at last night’s Lucerne Festival concert — the second of two concerts at the Summer Festival by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.

Even in such a decided non-masterpiece as Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1, she’s the real thing, one of the most magnetic musical personalities I’ve encountered.

As a generous encore, she and Barenboim sat together at the keyboard to play a Schubert’s piano duo: the Rondo in A major, D 951.

Filed under: Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich, pianists

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.