Ariel Sharon had a daily need for Bach

Ariel Sharon had a daily need for Bach


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2014

I met the late Israeli leader, who died today, on three or four occasions and have little to add to his political biography. I was, however, surprised to discover that this military man and farmer had a daily need for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He would play some each morning for several minutes before starting work.

Draw no conclusions from this, except as a testament to the penetrative power of great music.


See more here on Sharon’s musical affinities.


  • Neil van der Linden says:

    He was not the only leader capable of cruelty with a soft spot for some kind of music. To know more about his mindset it would be interesting to know which side of Bach he appreciated, the academic Bach of the Wohltemperierte Klavier and Kunst der Fuge, or the ‘commercial’ Bach of the Brandenburg Concertos, or the sensual Bach of the Passions….

  • Mahan Esfahani says:

    What a thing to say. All Bach is sensual.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      There is difference in sensuality between Erbarme Dich, the Gigue from the Second Suite and a fugue from Kunst der Fugue…

  • jantien buisman says:

    Which cruel leader do you mean, Mr Van der Linden? And what do you think you will know more about his mindset when you know which part of Bach Mr Ariel Sharon loved best?

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      I wrote Sharon is not the only cruel leader. We all now other cruel leaders with a soft sport for the arts. But I would be interested to know whether he enjoyed Erbärme Dich in the morning or a prelude and fugue from the Wohltemperierte Klavier. Or that it was just any Bach. And never any other composer.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Many powerful people listen to great music without actually hearing it.

  • Andrew says:

    He used to hang out backstage with us musicians in the Israel Philharmonic as his bodyguards liked to keep him in limited access. He came often to concerts and loved talking about music. Many of Israel’s great leadership were musical and men of high-culture. Time proved Ariel Sharon right about many things that were criticized at the time. He kept the land safe from people who would lie about wanting peace just in order to gain an upper hand in it’s ultimate destruction. This world needs more hawks like him and fewer weaklings who only want to be popular.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Like I said, many leaders of questionable reputation have a soft spot for being associated with culture. Whether they really listen/watch remains to be seen, as was brought up by David Boxwell. But that is the case with more of the watchers/listeners. In which years did he frequent the Philharmonic? In his Qibya years, in his settlement expansion years, in his Sabra and Chatila years, in his assault on the West Bank years?

      • kindadukish says:

        In the years that he kept Israel safe from the Islamic nutters……… know the ones that preach that Israel has no right to exist and teach their children that Jews are worse than pigs and vermin. But then these are the things that lefties like you have a propensity to forget……..and who started the 6 day war?

        • David H. says:

          Another one who thinks he solved the riddle of the hen and the egg. Before Zionism entered the world stage, Jews and Muslims coexisted relatively peacefully in the region. Maybe that’s just coincidence, maybe it’s not…

          • m2n2k says:

            If it is not a coincidence, then it is probably related to the fact that many people in the neighborhood would prefer Jews to remain homeless (that is, without a place to call their own) forever, while some of the Jews dare to disagree.

          • Neil van der Linden says:

            The thing is that the European powers after WWII and the horrible things that had happened in Europe delivered their guilt problem on the doorsteps of the local population in Palestine.

            And about the tender music-loving Sharon, I would think Bach contrasts quite strongly with Qibya, Sabra and Chatily (which was carried out by Lebanese Phalangists, but for which Sharon bore responsibility, as was also expressed in Lebanon in wide protests out of indignation about what happened), Jenin etcetera. But like said before, he was not the only aggressive leader with a penchant for tender music.

          • m2n2k says:

            The actual “thing” is that those “horrible things that had happened in Europe” were simply a culmination of what has been happening in many places for two thousand years and therefore can probably happen again, though not necessarily in the same location. But, if Israel is nothing but a “guilt problem”, then its very existence is wrong, unjust, illegitimate – and everything else, including musical tastes of its leaders, is irrelevant. Quite a few people, such as for example Hamas, will gladly agree with this kind of thinking, so you are in a nice company. Needless to say, I beg to differ.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Or in his Gaza withdrawal years or his start of peace negotiations years?

  • Gabor Fuchs says:

    During the intermission of the Israeli Philharmonic concert in Tel Aviv many years ago I saw him dressed in a shirt and jeans and surprisingly, he was alone.My friend from the orchestra told me that he went frequently backstage to talk to violin players.

  • Anna says:

    Ariel Sharon and J.S.Bach? Well, it served him all right. Match made in heaven.

  • yairsachs says:

    I learned many years ago the Sharon possessed a vast record collection and yes, he had a great liking for Bach.

    Thus I was not surprised to find myself, then a chorister with the Jerusalem Academy Chamber Choir, singing a Bach cantata with Ariel Sharon in the audience.

    I wondered if his bodyguard, sitting erect at the edge of the row, didn’t curse his assignment for that evening.

    Sharon said in an interview that “…the house i grew in was a house of music”.