A LIFE IN MUSIC by Daniel Barenboim


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Conductor/pianist Barenboim, recently appointed to succeed Georg Solti at the Chicago Symphony, offers not, as billed, ""a witty and engaging memoir,"" but rather a quiet potpourri of professional reminiscences and aesthetic observations--with personal matters almost entirely off-limits. There are, for instance, virtually no nonmusical references to Barenboim's late wife Jacqueline du PrÉ; he ""became over-sensitive to intrusions"" into their private life during her long battle with MS. Instead, after brief recollections of childhood in Argentina (where his Russian-Jewish grandparents emigrated) and youth in 1950's Israel (where his parents settled), Barenboim concentrates on his career--from first concert at age eight--and on impressions of musicians and music. Among pianists, he singles out Artur Rubinstein, a generous mentor, for his rhythmic vitality; Sir Clifford Curzon, who demonstrated that a musician could combine ""great flair and intuition with deep thought and analysis""; and Claudio Arran, ""the ideal musician."" The most important conductors for Barenboim have been stern George Szell (who initially ""told me to stick to the piano""), uncompromising Otto Klemperer, practical Sir John Barbirolli, and Pierre Boulez. His other great influence: du PrÉ, a musical rebel totally devoted to her art (""a musician who also happened to be a human being"") and a matchless expert on stringed-instrument playing. Barenboim discusses piano and conducting technique, the art of simultaneous playing-and-conducting (in Mozart concertos), his love of chamber-music and opera-conducting. (The brouhaha at the Bastille Opera receives a curt few paragraphs.) He laments the modern tendencies toward overcommercial, overtechnical music-making, and repeatedly invokes Spinoza in musings on the metaphysics of music. And, in a rare nonmusical vein, Barenboim salutes David Ben-Gurion and expresses hopes for a more tolerant Israel. Rather earnest and dry, somewhat disjointed--but thoughtful, intelligent commentaries for serious and/or philosophically oriented music fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Scribners