Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He received his first piano lessons at age five, and was first taught by his mother. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. He gave his first public concert when he was seven. In 1952, he moved with his parents to Israel.
At age eleven, Daniel Barenboim took part in conducting classes in Salzburg under Igor Markevich. In that summer, he also met Wilhelm Furtwängler and played for him. Furtwängler then wrote, “The eleven-year-old Daniel Barenboim is a phenomenon.” In 1955 and 1956, Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
At age ten, Daniel Barenboim gave his international debut performance as a solo pianist in Vienna and Rome; Paris (1955), London (1956), and New York (1957) then followed, where he played with Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has regularly toured Europe and the United States, but also South America, Australia, and the Far East.
In 1954, Daniel Barenboim began his recording career as a pianist. In the 1960s, he recorded Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with Otto Klemperer, Brahms’ Piano Concertos with Sir John Barbirolli, and all the Mozart piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, this time serving both as pianist and conductor.
Ever since his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. Between 1975 and 1989, he was chief conductor of the Orchestre de Paris, where he often performed contemporary works by composers such as Lutosławski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, and Takemitsu and others.
Daniel Barenboim gave his debut as an opera conductor at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In 1981, he conducted for the first time in Bayreuth, where he would conduct every summer for eighteen years, until 1999. During this time, he conducted Tristan und Isolde, Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
From 1991 until June 2006, Daniel Barenboim was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The musicians of the orchestra have since named him Honorary Conductor for Life. In 1992, he became General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where he was also artistic director from 1992 to August 2002. In 2000, the Staatskapelle Berlin voted him chief-conductor-for-life. Both, in the opera as well as on the concert stage, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin have acquired a large repertoire of complete symphonic works (work cycles). The cyclical performance of all operas by Richard Wagner at the Staatsoper as well as the presentation of all the symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann was met worldwide with praise; it was recorded on CD and performed in Berlin, Vienna, New York and Tokyo. At the FESTTAGE 2007 Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez performed the complete cycle of symphonies of Gustav Mahler with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Beside the great classic-romantic repertoire, Daniel Barenboim continues to focus on contemporary music. The premiere of Elliot Carter’s only opera What next? took place at the Staatsoper. The Staatskapelle’s concert repertoire regularly includes compositions of Boulez, Rihm, Mundry, Carter and Höller for example.
Musicians of the Staatskapelle have been actively involved in setting up a music kindergarten in Berlin that was initiated and founded by Daniel Barenboim in September 2005. In February 2003, Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle and the chorus of the Staatsoper were awarded a Grammy for their recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser. In March 2003, he and the Staatskapelle were honoured with the Wilhelm-Furtwängler-Preis.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim founded together with the Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said the West-Eastern Divan Workshop, which brings together young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries every summer to play music together. The workshop seeks to enable dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East and promote the experience of playing music together. In summer 2005, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra presented a concert of historical significance in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, which was broadcast on television and recorded on DVD. Musicians of the Staatskapelle Berlin have participated as teachers in this project since its foundation.
Daniel Barenboim also initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories which includes the foundation of a music kindergarten as well as a Palestinian youth orchestra.
In 2002, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said were awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Prize in the Spanish town of Oviedo for their peace efforts. In November of the same year, Daniel Barenboim was awarded the Tolerance Prize by the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing as well as Germany’s Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern. In March 2004, Daniel Barenboim was honoured for his work of reconciliation in the Middle East by the Deutscher Koordinierungs-Rat with the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medaille. In May 2004, he was awarded the Israeli Wolf Foundation’s Arts Prize in the Knesset in Jerusalem. In the spring of 2006, Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the “Kulturgroschen”, the highest honour awarded by the Deutscher Kulturrat. In May he received the international Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis in a ceremony at the Musikverein in Vienna. That same month, he won the Peace Prize by the Korn and Gerstenmann Foundation in Frankfurt. Between January and April 2006 Mr. Barenboim delivered the BBC Reith Lectures, and in September 2006 he gave six lectures at Harvard University as Charles Eliot Norton Professor. In 2007 he was awarded with the Hessische Friedenspreis and the Goethe-Medal. In the same year he received the honorary doctorate of the University of Oxford and was given “la Cravate de Commandeur dans l’Ordre national de la Légion d’Honneur” by former French President Jacques Chirac. In October 2007, Daniel Barenboim was also awarded with the prize for art and culture “Praemium Imperiale” by the Japanese imperial family. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, named Daniel Barenboim UN messanger of peace in September 2007. In Mai 2008 he received in Buenos Aires the award “Ciudadano Ilustre”. In February 2009 Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the Moses Mendelssohn Medal for his engagement for international understanding. 2010 he received a “Honorary Degree in Music” of the Royal Academy of Music London. In February 2010 he was honoured with the “Deutsche Kulturpreis” for his lifelong musical activities. In October 2010 the “Westfälischer Friedenspreis” followed. Recently Daniel Barenboim was honoured with the Herbert-von-Karajan-Musikpreis and the Otto-Hahn-Friedensmedaille. In February 2011 he received the title “Grand officier dans l’ordre national de la Légion d’honneur” from the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In July followed in London Wigmore Hall the honour “Outstanding Musician Award of the Critics’ Circle”. In the same month he was awarded by Queen Elizabeth II. as “Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” (KBE). In October he was honoured with the Willy-Brandt-Preis.
With the beginning of the season 2007/08 Daniel Barenboim began a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as “Maestro Scaligero” where he conducts opera and concert performances as well as he plays in chamber music concerts. In the autumn of 2011 he was appointed Music Director of the famous opera house.
Daniel Barenboim has published several books: the autobiography A Life in Music, and Parallels and Paradoxes, which he wrote together with Edward Said. In autumn 2007, his new book La Musica sveglia il tempo was published in Italy. The book has been available in German under the title Klang ist Leben – Die Macht der Musik since August 2008. With Patrice Chéreau he published in December 2008 Dialoghi su musica e teatro. Tristano e Isotta.