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 PrÇ; 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 Arrau, ``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 PrÇ, 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. (Sixteen pages of photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-684-19326-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1992


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