Daniel Barenboim and the Berliner Philharmoniker have maintained a close artistic friendship for 50 years: On 12 June 1964, the then 21-year-old pianist appeared with the orchestra for the first time as the soloist in Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 1. The event was reported in the press rather fleetingly because the reviewers focused their attention on Pierre Boulez, who was making his debut conducting one of his own works that evening. Nevertheless, they bore witness to Daniel Barenboim’s great technical mastery. “Whether he is more than just a good technician, he would have to demonstrate in other music,” said one critic. This opportunity soon presented itself: Only a few months later, Barenboim played Wilhelm Furtwängler’s Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in B minor under the baton of Zubin Mehta, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the death of the composer and conductor. The intensity of his playing and the heartfelt expression delighted both the audience and press alike. Barenboim, who admired Furtwängler from an early age, feels a special connection to him to this day. Furtwängler had heard him a decade earlier and had invited the talented youngster to perform in Berlin. But Barenboim’s father refused – on the grounds that a Jewish family could not come to Germany only nine years after the end of World War II.
A dual talent: pianist and conductor
Right from the start, Daniel Barenboim loved the way the Berliner Philharmoniker played: “The incredible warmth in the strings with a vibrancy I had never heard before,” he said in an interview with 128 - the Berliner Philharmoniker Magazine. “They didn't yet have the solo characteristic they have today through their great soloist personalities.” Daniel Barenboim has been successful not only as a pianist but also as a conductor. He first led the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1969, conducting Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 95 in C minor, Schumann's Fourth Symphony and Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto with Sir Clifford Curzon as the soloist. An event that caused a sensation and made it clear what great musical potential he had in him. But there was more: From 1976, audiences of the Philharmoniker also experienced Daniel Barenboim on several occasions in the dual role of conductor and soloist. The then 33-year-old performed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Anton Bruckner's Fourth Symphony. One review described how he was no mere time beater, rather he followed in the grand tradition of the dynamic designer who creates freely using expressive gestures.
Emotional concert events
As a pianist, he has appeared in Philharmoniker concert programmes with the concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms in particular. As a conductor, he has programmed works ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to Pierre Boulez. However, his focus has been on the Classical and Romantic repertoire: Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss and, on several occasions, Bruckner. Barenboim also has a fondness for the English composer Edgar Elgar. Just recently, he conducted his symphonic study Falstaff at the European Concert. Two highly emotional events stand out in the long and fruitful collaboration between Daniel Barenboim and the Berliner Philharmoniker: the special concert he conducted for the citizens of the German Democratic Republic which was organised at very short notice on 12 November 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then in 1990, there was the orchestra's first tour of Israel, in which he accompanied the Philharmoniker as a conductor. Daniel Barenboim, general music director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden since 1992, and music director of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan since 2011, celebrates this 50-year friendship with the Berliner Philharmoniker with a special concert on 18 June. Daniel Barenboim is the soloist in Johannes Brahms' First Piano Concerto. The conductor will be Sir Simon Rattle. The long sold-out event will be broadcast live in the Digital Concert Hall or in cinemas.