One of the world's most renowned conductors and musicians, 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, Brahm’s 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 programmed contemporary works by composers such as Lutoslawski, 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 the concert repertoire, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle have worked through large cycles of works. Worldwide praise has been attracted by the cyclical performance of all operas of Richard Wagner at the Staatsoper as well as the presentation of all the symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann, recorded on CD and performed not just in Berlin, but also Vienna, New York, and Tokyo. For 2007, a cycle of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler is planned. Beside the great classical-romantic repertoire, Daniel Barenboim also 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 includes compositions of Boulez, Rihm, Mundry, Carter, and Höller. Musicians of the Staatskapelle have been active partners in the establishment of a musical kindergarten that Daniel Barenboim founded in September 2005 in Berlin. In February 2003, Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle, and the Staatsoper chorus were awarded a Grammy for their recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser. In March 2003, he and the Staatskapelle were honored 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. In Summer 2005, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra presented in the Palestinian city of Ramallah a concert of historical significance, which was broadcast on television and recorded on DVD. The workshop seeks to enable dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East and promote the experience of playing music together. Musicians of the Staatskapelle Berlin have participated as teachers in this project since its foundation.
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 honored 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 honor 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. Starting in 2007/2008 Daniel Barenboim will initiate a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as "Maestro Scaligero". He will conduct opera and concert there as well as play in chamber music concerts.
Recently, Daniel Barenboim initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories, including the foundation of a musical kindergarten as well as the building up of a Palestinian youth orchestra.
Daniel Barenboim has published two books: the autobiography Music: My Life, and Parallels and Paradoxes, which he wrote together with Edward Said.