Today is the 70th birthday of one of the world's foremost classical musicians - Daniel Barenboim , a native of Buenos Aires , Argentina ,son of Russian jews , but a citizen of the world . A child prodigy on the piano who grew up to achieve world renown not only as a pianist but a condiuctor of music by composers ranging from Bach to contemporary , at home in both the concert hall and the opera house and an ambassador for world peace .
Daniel Barenboim began to achieve international renown as a pianist more than 50 years ago after having studied with many eminent teachers ,including the legendary French pedagogue Nadia Boulanger (1887 - 1979 ) , and working with eminent conductors such as otto Klemperer and others . He grew up in Israel , but but made virtually the entire world his home with his constant travelling as a pianist and conductor . He has been more active conducting than playing the piano for much of his life , but continues to make appearances both as a recitalist and performing concertos with the world's leading orchestras . He has also made an enormous number of recordings of music from Bach to the late, great Elliott Carter and other contemporary composers , and many of his live performances are now available on DVD . Barenboim has recorded prolifically for such great record labels as Deutsche Grammophon , EMI, Telarc ,Decca and Sony Classical .
Daniel Barenboim has held a number of prestigious conducting posts, including ten years as music director of the renowned Chicago symphony, succeding the late , great Hungarian maestro Sir Georg Solti , the orchestre De Paris , as well as regular appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic , the London Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic and other great orchestras . He has been cief conductor of the Berlin State opera for many years , as well as conducting concerts with its resident orchestra, the Berlin State orchestra , and has recently become the first non Italian to serve as music director of the legendary La Scala opera house in Milan .
A few years ago , he made his eagerly awaited debut at the Metropolitan opera conducting Wagner's Tristan &Isolde . One of his most significant recent projects has been the creation of the East West Divan orchestra, which is made up of talented young Israeli and Arab musicians in the hope of promoting peace between Israelis and Arabs .
Barenboim is one of today's foremost Wagner conductors , and has appeared at the Bayreuth Festival numerous times . His performances there of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung and Die Meistersinger are available on CD and DVD, and he has recorded the other Wagner stage works with the Berlin State opera and the Berlin Philharmonic with some of today's leading Wagner singers . He is also renowned as an interpreter of the mighty symphonies of Wagner's fervent admirer Anton Bruckner , and has made complete sets of his symphonies with the Chicago symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic .
There are also recordings of all nine Bewethoven symphonies, and the complete symphonies of Brahms, Schubert and Schumann , as well as composers as diverse as Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Elgar , Debussy , Berlioz , Carter , Luciano Berio , Liszt , Bach , Richard Strauss , Mahler, and many others .
Barenboim has regularly collaborated with such great violinists as Itzhak Perlman , Pichas Zukerman , pinait Lang Lang and other renowned musicians, as well as such great opera and lieder singers as the late, great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau , Placido Domingo , and others .
Let's all wish a happy birthday to this enormously gifted , industrious and versatile musician, and wish him many more years of great achievements .
Elliott Carter , generally acknowledged to be the greatest American composer of the present day, has died at the extraordinary age of 103 in his native New York . Even more remarkably , he remained active as a composer until just before his passing . His death comes just a week after that of Hans Werner Henze , which I covered last week here . Carter was not as well known to the general public as Aaron Copland , Samuel Barber and a few other American composers , but he enjoyed the esteem of many of the world's leading music critics , scholars , conductors and instrumentalists , as well as many other distinguished composers for decades and won virtually every award a composer could receive , including a Pulitzer prize .
Carter was born in December 1908 , when Theodore Roosevelt was President , and died just one day before Barack Obama was re-elected . He was the son of a wealthy New York merchant and was by no means a child prodigy . But the great composer Charles ives, who was an insurance executive by profession and sold insurance to his father, befriended the teenage Carter and encouraged his musical insterests . The youth became studied music diligently but enrolled in Harvard as an English major ,later studying music there on the graduate level . He also went to Paris to study composition with the legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger , who taught many young Americans who went on to major careers as composers, such as Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson .
Carter began writing music of a populist style similar to Aaron Copland , but did not find his own voice until the early 1950s , when he wrote his acclaimed first string quartet , which launched his career as a composer of uncompromisingly complex , thorny and challenging music . He never used the Schonebergian 12-tone technique which was adapted by so many other composers of the day , but developed a freely atonal technique of his own .
Over the years , Carter wrote four more string quartets, assorted orchestral works, concertos for violin, cello, piano, and other instruments, choral works, songs , piano works , and even one opera, written at the age of 90 ! Many concertgoers were perplexed and even outraged by the baffling complexity of his works and their utter lack of conventional melodiousness , but many prominent critics recognized the brilliance of compositional technique and inventiveness of the music , and many prominent conductors , pianists , and other musicians championed his works and even befriended him .
Despite the extreme difficulty they posed to orchestras , pianists and chamber ensembles , Carter's works were regularly performed all over America and Europe . Orchestras and conductors required extra rehearsal time to prepare his orchestral works for performance , so he was not performed as often at concerts as other contemporary composers , but they did get performed with some regularity , and there have been numerous recordings . Eminent conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Sir Georg Solti,Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, James levine, and others progrmmed his orchestral works despite the reluctance of many conservative concertgoers to hear challenging music , and leading pianists such as Charles Rosen and Ursula Oppens played his piano concerto and solo piano works regularly and recorded them . The Juilliard string quartet and other leading quartets played his string quartets often and recorded them .
Carter also taught composition at Juilliard and Queens college in New York , and wrote articles on his music and other contemporary composers and traveled regularly to Europe to participate in festivals of contemporary music and teach .
When you hear Carter's music for the first time , you will probably be confused ,disoriented and baffled until you get accustomed to it . If you are looking for juicy , lush ,melodious music you will be disappointed . But to do this is to miss the point altogether . Carter's music seems rhythmically chaotic at first and there are so many different rhythms going on simultaneously . But everything is rigorously organized despite the apparent chaos .
Carter's music is diametrically opposed to the minimalist , highly repetitious style of his younger ocntemporary Philip Glass , which seems to bother many listeners with its relentless repetition . The older composer's works seem to be totally lacking in repetition ; the music is in a constant state of flux , and there is no sense of going from one theme to another , and returning to this or that theme as you find in the familiar works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky etc . To use a cliche, you have to go with the flow, and follow the music as it goes on its mercurial course .
The variations for orchestra is probably the best introduction to Carter's music ; it's quite complex but relatively approachable . Other orchestral works by Carter include the Concerto for orchestra, Symphony of Three orchestras, which features three different instrumental groups within the orchesta contending with each other , the piano concerto , and the various concertos for cello, violin, clarinet and French horn .
A good place to check for recordings of Carter and countless other composers is arkivmusic.com , where you cna look up any recording by either composer or performer and easily order it . If you are willing to challenge your ear and brain , the music of Carter is the perfect place to start .