Barenboim sends message to President Trump

Barenboim sends message to President Trump


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2017

From a correspondent:

At Friday’s Carnegie Hall performance of Bruckner’s Second Symphony with the Staatskapelle Berlin, Daniel Barenboim gave a lengthy and impromptu political speech from the stage immediately after the conclusion of the symphony.

In an address that was received with cheers and a standing ovation, he remarked that ‘America has the power to make the world great’ if its politicians emphasize culture. He noted that ‘politicians have difficult lives; however, they must not make culture their last priority’, and that culture is not and does not have to be elitist. Though he did not refer directly to Donald Trump (except for the punchline and his emphasis of the date 20 January, 2017), his speech was clearly aimed at the priorities not just of the new president but of the country in general.



  • Alank says:

    As if Obama placed serious culture as a high priority. This blog site is becoming a vehicle for political left wing rants and it is getting tiresome. A performance of Bruckner’s 2nd is a bizarre starting point for a sanctimonious lecture on politics. Anyway I will wait for the next Haitink performance: he is a much better interpreter of Bruckner as is Bloomstedt

    • Robert Manno says:

      Barenboim is not a “left-winger.” He is a humanitarian who preaches tolerance, compassion, harmony and inclusion (as does President Obama). All qualities present in great art. If you think that is left-wing, then so be it. Does that mean that the opposite would be true of “right-wingers?” A so-called “right-wing” leader in our country is about to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities.

      • Mark says:

        Barenboim is a self-promoting blowhard. As to Obama, he wouldn’t know a symphony from a piano concerto … and probably could not distinguish either from a piano recital. He couldn’t even correctly pronounce Martha Argerich’s name when bestowing the nation’s highest cultural award on her. At least when it comes to music, the highest musical “culture” he and Michelle could appreciate was Beyonce and Jay-Z. I don’t think Trump is any better in that regard, but I didn’t see Barenboim lecturing Obama. That sort of supports the idea that B. is left-wing.

        • Brian Hughes says:

          I have always held Daniel “I don’t think Jackie ever knew” Barenboim in the lowest disregard.

        • Steeevyo says:

          Ah the morally self righteous. You obviously know nothing about the relationship of Jaqueline duPre and Daniel Barenboim. But that doesn’t stop you to make proclamations from the high horse you are sitting on.

      • PaulD says:

        Obama preaches tolerance and inclusion? If so, then why does he have as his pal Al Sharpton, who incited violence against New York’s Jewish community?

      • Christopher CZAJA SAGER says:

        OBAMA : a war criminal. Period!

        • Robert Manno says:

          Putin: a humanitarian. Period. (sarcasm alert)

          • Bruce says:

            Oh, don’t do that. It spoils the fun of guessing, and sometimes you can fool a troll into thinking you agree with him 🙂

          • Holly Golightly says:

            People who hate Trump and spill bile = good people
            People who detest Obama and his divisive politics = trolls

            Absolutely priceless!!

    • Scott Rose says:

      It’s remarkable that whereas others are publishing articles about President Obama’s formidable reading recommendations, you’re accusing him of not caring about culture. Please go look at what President Obama has to say about the importance of reading great fiction.

      • pooroperaman says:

        He can read all the novels he likes. That doesn’t detract from his tone-deafness and inability to understand any music that is not fatuously fashionable. But then that’s also true of all the snowflakes who gather under his wing.

        • Laughia says:

          And you can name any of the last few modern presidents who had a moderate to high level of music literacy? And this was one of your voting criteria? Really? You’re simply grasping for any last remnant of criteria to hate on Obama with. Adds nothing to a clique of the subject here.

          • Don Ciccio says:

            I can actually. Reagan and Clinton; they both had at least “moderate” musical understanding.

        • Holly Golightly says:


      • Alank says:

        So Obama has impressive reading recommendations. How well did that translate into the promotion of high culture or even good policy prescriptions? I doubt Triump will be attending performances of Mahler symphonies. But neither did BHO or Clinton But his promotion of pop music and second rate movie actors will likely be less robust than Obama since Hollywood hates him. In short Obama was a pjilistine president elevated to a cultural genius by his sycophant supporters. At least those of us who voted for trump will not suffer from such delusions I

    • Brian says:

      Obama didn’t make signals in his first week that he’d defund the NEA.

      Moreover, artists have always spoken out for social progress and human rights. Slipped Disc is simply reporting on the zeitgeist, and I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more such remarks in the next fours.

      • Greg says:

        The NEA? Oh, how awful it would be to lose funding for Mapplethorpe exhibits and pictures of religious icons covered in urine, feces, or monthly female discharge. How will we ever survive? How will culture endure?

    • Sue says:

      Got to agree with this. Thank you. As for Barenboim, “shut up and play”.

    • Chris says:

      Really though, who was the last US president who showed a real knowledge of “serious culture” or classical music in general? I’d have to go with Richard Nixon, like him or not. (For the candidates running in 2016, Sanders was the true classical music lover.)

      • Marshall says:

        It was Jimmy Carter (Nixon played the piano a bit-so did Truman, more than a bit-even could play classical) who had a real love and knowledge of music.When Horowitz played there it was obvious listening to him how much he knew and appreciated it-unlike Obama who may have been a reader but had lnow knowledge or interest in decent music.

        The irony of this blog, and the leftist fanatics who are going crazy on it, is that conservatives are the ones who extol and honor traditional arts including music. The left liberals for ideological reasons have to be opposed to any art form of a traditional or elitist sort=real art. Think about it. Look at the groups Obama listened to or Clinton used campaigning. I never heard of them-or for that matter this little girl who sang the national anthem that Lebrecht is so obsessed with. Of course all popular political movements today must rely on mass music and entertainment-but at least the conservatives in some little corner of their brains know that serious art means something. The left is so ideologically obsessed they can’t even admit that-and on top of it all THAT art was written by white men-very bad.

        • Christopher CZAJA SAGER says:

          re Carter’s ‘knowledge’: at that stunt at his White House, he said to VH how much he enjoyed VH’s recording of the …Grieg concerto….

          • Marshall says:

            Stunt? You can find Carter’s introduction where he mentions several composers and recordings from his days at the naval academy-he clearly knew and loved the music. Unlike Obama-intelligent in other areas, but embarrassingly ignorant of classical music and opera-his administration didn’t even give lip service to it, or attend the opera 1x as most presidents do. Trump used Nessun Norma during the campaign, and being a New Yorker has been to the opera-but that’s probably about it

        • Insider says:

          Marshall, you sound a lot like like a conservative idealogue. You may be correct about some ‘left liberals’ but I could probably be described as a left-leaning liberal, yet I extol the values of high art and culture. The British Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is probably the most left-leaning liberal leader of any major British party for 30 years, yet he too greatly extols and honours traditional arts and music, although I don’t share all his political views.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Corbyn listened a lot to Mahler’s symohonies, judging from his looks. I don’t think cultural interests on a personal level are always beneficiant for politicians.

          • Marshall says:

            I don’t why stating some facts makes me sound like a “conservative ideologue”-but labeling makes you sound like a liberal dwelling in an identity politics bubble-but that’s the way it goes around here

            Interestingly the two Presidents who knew classical music that I mention were both Democrats. But that still doesn’t change the fact that in modern democratic politics the left uses and exploits pop/rock music (and its stars), and views high art as elitist and undemocratic, which loses votes

          • Holly Golightly says:

            “Yet I extol values of high art and culture”. A true bien pensant.

    • Nick Dregg says:

      I thought the very same thing a blog for left wingers, or those without a brain.Those demonstrating are vile left wing trash supported by pop stars/semi porn stars the dregs of society.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        Many of whom have used their ‘feminine charms’ to get them exactly what they want. (Quickly, avert eyes.)

    • Alvaro says:

      Look mom!! The Nazis and Nazi wanna-be’s are coming out to play!
      They are not ashamed anymore!

  • Anon says:

    Man asks for more tax-payer funding to be given to his own industry or profession. Not much of a surprise there.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Barenboim can be a great conductor. But it’s too bad that for all the time he spent in Chicago that he rarely programmed music by American composers – old or new. There’s something to be said for national pride even if American composers don’t rise to the levels of the great European masters. Leonard Slatkin and Gerard Schwarz certainly have done a lot, and Neeme Jarvi in Detroit made major contributions. If you’re ever going to get the American public (which generally has no use for classical music) to shell out more money for orchestras, you’re going to have to start promoting native composers. Finland, Germany, France, England, Russia and other places certainly take pride in their composers. So bring on Hanson, Copland, Beach, Parker, Chadwick, Gottschalk, Piston, Ives, and the other neglected composers.

    • Peter Cigleris says:

      England doesn’t, there are so many unsung great English composers.

      • Cubs Fan says:

        As far as live concert support of British composers goes, I can’t argue with you since I don’t live there. But – as far as concerning recordings go, England is tops! Chandos, Hyperion, Lyrita, Dutton and others have done a superb job of furnishing the works of English composers to the world. Naxos has filled a lot of voids in the American heritage, but there are still huge gaps that likely will never be filled. I doubt anyone will ever do a cycle of the symphonies of Roger Sessions, or even Piston or Schuman.

        • Ppellay says:

          Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony did do a Schuman symphony cycle for Naxos a few years back, and very good it is too.

    • Mikey says:

      ” even if American composers don’t rise to the levels of the great European masters ”

      That has got to be the most id10tic remark I’ve ever read.
      “let’s support American composers, even if they’re crappy”. Tes, that’s just so supportive.

      how about “Let American artists support the GREAT American composers that are being neglected in favour of the more superficially fashionable avant-garde Europeans”.

      • Cubs Fan says:

        If that’s the MOST idiotic thing you’ve ever read, then you haven’t been on this board too long. I agree, let’s play our great American composers. The problem is that that’s all we play! I’m an orchestral player with 40 years experience. When we do play music by American composers it’s the same stuff over and over: Copland Rodeo, Copland El Salon Mexico, Copland Appalachian Spring, Bernstein Candide overture, Hanson 2nd symphony, Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Gershwin American in Paris, Grofe Grand Canyon Suite — got the idea? Rarely something out of the way, like Amy Beach’s symphony, or Chadwick’s Jubilee. But I also have no false illusions: there is no symphony written by any American composer that rises the deeply profound level of genius exhibited by Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and some others. And that’s ok. I’m bored playing the standard repertoire. There’s a lot of unknown music that’s fully worthy of playing, listening to, and recording. So what if it’s not the level of Beethoven? But pretending that the third symphonies of Bernstein, Hanson, Sessions, Piston, Schuman are the equal of the Eroica is pointless. Yet I, and many other players, would much rather play the symphonies of any of the former than slog through the Beethoven for the umpteenth time. On the other hand, I doubt the audiences share my feelings…

        • John Borstlap says:

          You confuse geography iwth history. 18C and 19C serious music happened in Europe, by the time of the 20C, music got into trouble, so when the USA developed into a truly Western culture with all the assets (and a couple of extras), music as an art form had entered a ‘difficult phase’ everywhere. Although ‘oldfashioned’ music went on being written, the ‘established’ contemporary music scene projected a very different profile and in Europe, almost entirely sterile. I am impressed that in these times, there are many truly musical composers in the USA who are being performed, and often by symphony orchestras, and they all write tonal, expressive music, while in Europe they are still a minoritt, looked-down upon by the ‘established’ modernist scene as being reactionary and worse. While it is meanwhile obvious that if anything in the world is reactionary, it is the old postwar modernist schools and everything following from it.

          Jake Heggie, Daniel Asia, Paul Moravec, Stephen Albert, Aaron Jay Kernis, all composers working on a renaissance. They create the context which is the condition of great works.

        • EmmKay says:

          “Cubs Fan”, I’ve personally been to an all Gershwin program conducted by Barenboim during his CSO tenure (with Bill Eddins on the piano). Barenboim recorded with the CSO (and won a Grammy) for Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, and conducted plenty of music by the composers in residence at the time: Shulamit Ran and Augusta Reed Thomas. He ceaselessly programmed, conducted and championed Eliott Carter, who last I checked was American. That’s just off the top of my head without consulting my collection of program books and season brochures. And even Boulez as principal guest conductor programmed music of such (for him unexpected) composers as Colin McPhee (OK, he’s Canadian). This silly criticism doesn’t hold up to reality and reveals more about the critic’s political biases than anything else (as tends to be the case with most of this really inexplicably aggressive hatred of Barenboim that I see online). PS: how much more American music do you think Haitink or Muti programmed at the CSO since Barenboim’s departure (composers in residence aside)? Would you like to take a guess?

  • Robert Manno says:

    It’s so easy to pick apart the personal and musical faults of any conductor, even the great ones from Furtwangler to Karajan through Bernstein, Tennstedt and Kleiber and all the lesser ones on down. Left-wing, Right-wing, No-wing, Ding-wing. Barenboim is a humanitarian. Period. Whether someone thinks he’s a blowhard doesn’t concern me. I’d much prefer to listen to a “blowhard” conductor who preaches Tolerance, Compassion and Inclusion and lives those virtues through his work, than listen to and watch a conductor who coddles and supports a murderous, authoritarian dictator.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      I’ll bet you’ll be able to identify all of those in your last category with every finger on your left hand.

  • Jane says:

    Shut up and play? Prominent musicians like Barenboim are in the public eye and their views make a difference.
    Would you say “shut up and sweep” to a street sweeper who dared to air his opinion?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Once, my PA had been offended gravely by a comment thrown at her by a street sweeper when buying stamps in the village here. Street sweepers, especially when they are local British brexiteers, can be very articulate. Sally indeed just said: ‘Shut up and sweep’ but was then threatened by the broom, which she could only escape by barricading in a nearby grocer shop. Comparable dangers by famous conductors seem minimal, though, and only Toscanini comes to mind. But his ‘broom’ was minimal indeed – I don’t think anybody was ever hurt by a baton otherwise than spiritually.

    • Mike Schachter says:

      The problem is that Barenboim and other “celebrities” believe that their opinions are far more important than those of street sweepers, bus drivers etc. They are not but of course many of these important people don’t believe in democracy unless it suits them.. As Orwell so neatly put it, some things are so stupid that only intellectuals would believe them. For a current cultural example, the choice of Polanski to present the Cesars, on the grounds that he is an “insatiable aesthete”. Difficult to know whether to laugh or vomit.

      • John Borstlap says:

        With the current availability of social media, any street sweeper, conductor or president can ventilate his/her opinions into the mental void of the postfact cloud.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        Polanski given a get-out-of-jail-free card from the Hollywood elite!! They are such staggering hypocrites, but probably just ‘medicated’ most of the time. We must show compassion, therefore!!

    • Holly Golightly says:

      If he was trying to force his personal political opinions onto me gratuitously, certainly!

  • Ungeheuer says:

    Great of Barenboim. “Make the World Great Again”.

  • Politicsoutofhalls says:

    Barenboim should stick to lecturing in countries where he is a citizen.

  • SheltonHall says:

    Ah, the Trump trolls abound in the comments to this article. You can all shut up, you’re irrelevant. Especially the ass who chided Obama for not being able to pronounce Martha Argerich’s name “correctly”. To you, I say that you’re what’s wrong with classical music and indeed, culture at large. Pompous snobs, the lot of you. Let Barenboim have his say; what have YOU done to advance humanity? If you are one of the admitted Trump supporters, congratulations. You’ve announced your very pronounced LACK of culture and appreciation for the arts quite loudly. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • Cyril Blair says:

      I’m an Obama respecter, but the problem wasn’t merely that he mispronounced her name, but that he did it in front of her, twice (two different ways), in a ceremony meant to honor her, and that he was able to pronounce every other honoree’s name correctly. That has zero to do with whether or not he respects classical music, it has to do with whether he bothered to go through his introductory speeches beforehand and make sure he was getting everything right. Clearly he didn’t do that with Argerich. Being dismayed that he got her name wrong twice has nothing to do with elitism or snobbery!

    • Christopher CZAJA SAGER says:

      my favorite : K.Zimermann at his recital in LA.

      That was appropriate…? !
      and clairvoyant t h e n : BO upped the crime just weeks ago!

    • Mark says:

      Sorry that I, as the ass you cited, did not get back here to respond to you more quickly. Cyril’s response to your snide comment mostly covers what I wanted to say. Obama did not mispronounce the names of any of the other honorees … and there was only a handful of names to learn. How hard would it have been, knowing that he didn’t have the slightest clue who MA was, to have asked someone knowledgable (obviously NOT Michelle!) to coach him on the correct pronunciation. MA was one of the guests of honor! It was really disgraceful and disrespectful to mispronounce her name. Of course, how you go from my comment to proclaiming that I lack appreciation of the arts defies logic. I thought posters here were supposed to have some intelligence. Obviously, I was mistaken, at least in your case.

      As to Barenboim, I still maintain that he is a pompous blowhard. My cousins lived in the same apartment house as B’s uncle in Jerusalem in the 1950’s and met B. a number of times in those days. They said that B. was a pompous, obnoxious child then. He obviously hasn’t changed much since. He may be an ambassador for peace in your eyes, but to me, he seems far more concerned with bolstering his own politically-correct, Palestinian-supporting messiah image. Very similar to Obama. (Oh, and I did NOT vote for Trump.)

  • Christopher CZAJA SAGER says:

    DB would not bite one of the many hands who feed him.
    Q u i t e out of place, such , at a concert in Berlin, to make political pronouncements!

    hmm, will someone here pull such a tasteless act and sum at Merkel/Gabriel & cie’s ‘achievements’ what their policies have done to the BRD and much of Europe?.

  • Ben says:

    Would comment on DB after he gives his first memorable Bruckner in the Unites States and America. 🙂

  • Stanley Cohen says:

    We have a concept known as ‘Peter’s principle’ which states that everyone is promoted to the limits of their own incompetence. Time and again Maestro Barenboim demonstrates the veracity of this concept. If only he would stick to music, but his excellence in that sphere has deluded him into believing his purported excellence in others.

  • Chris Bekker says:

    It is also becoming very tiresome that the most that Trump supporters can come up with is that anybody who speaks against Trump or his followers is a looney lefty. Yaaaawwwnnn. And I expect that the great DB can expect to be done the subject of yet another vitriolic twitter attack from the tweeter in chief. Yaaaawwwwnnnn

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Stereotypes in the age of tweeter: Obama music is ‘gangsta rap’ and dance background to lascivious rhythmical hip movements of young, half-naked black women with big tits and bums. I really don’t know about The Donald’s preferences – I guess he likes Frank Sinatra songs, big bands, and ‘light’ music played on white pianos. Maybe Barenboim can make his way to a White House invitation by playing tangos on his new piano (he is very good in tangos).

  • JT Stout says:

    Oh, my! Some commenters have criticised Mr. Lebrecht for posting political comments, some criticize Mr. Barenboim for saying political things from the stage, some criticize former President Obama for cultural ignorance, and some criticize President Trump. I think the point that has been lost is that Mr. Barenboim made his comments after President Trump laid out a plan to defund the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

  • BillG says:

    Unfortunately we have the lessons of recent history to validate what he said. When Xugoslavia begin to fall apart and civil war became rampant, the attitude in Europe was – a civil war in the Balkans? We’ll have to find a different place to holiday.

    It wasn’t till the US pushed, pulled and proded did thinks start to happen. Europe can’t lead itself out of a paper bag, but it has a problem with the US when we show them the way out.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    I was at the concert. Here’s my take.

    Prima la musica. The best thing was the burnished playing of the marvelous Berlin Staatskapelle. No, it was not note perfect but who cares with those silky yet dark strings and brass that is powerful but not overwhelming? I also liked the big band Mozart that was offered in the first part.

    OK, the speech now. Generally I believe that at concerts musicians should respect the public and not throw their political opinions upon us. Whether right of left wing, this is not what the public paid for. There are exceptions, of course, and I don’t care (generally) what artists do outside the concert hall; that’s their business. But the night was the 60 years anniversary of Barenboim’s Carnegie Hall debut so I suppose he earned a pass.

    So I should say that there were things that I agreed with and others that I disagree with in his speech. It was indeed an indirect stab at the incoming president, but Barenboim was diplomatic enough to praise the quality of US musicians and to point out that cuts to the arts happen all over the world. Indeed, he said that the arts are the first things that politicians cut; this applies more in Europe for instance which relies on public funding than on US.

    Here’s the thing that I agreed with: the fact that arts and music in general are not elitist.

    The first thing that I disagreed with is when he said that is enough to bring anyone in a concert hall once to fall in love with music (something close to this, anyway). Once in a concert hall, politicians will understand the importance of arts funding. This is of course incorrect, as examples all over the world show us. In fact the current administration has influential people who know the importance of the arts (deVos, Gingrich, etc.), yet the NEA is on the chopping block.

    More gregarious was the statement that all we need to “make the world great” are arts. Seriously? The whole history is filled with examples of criminal states that made arts a national policy. Indeed, many of today’s dictatorships do just that and there are world famous artists who support these regimes; they have been pointed out repeatedly on this blog.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Thank you for your comment. It is lamentable that supporting the Arts had higher priority in Nazy Germany, in Fascist Italy, and in Communist Soviet Union than in most Western democracies of today.

    • Paul Davis says:

      Yes, i would certainly describe Barenboom as “gregarious!” Oops, over-zealous aiuto correcked…?
      Otherwise, very interesting account and point of view, thanks.

      • Holly Golightly says:

        I think he probably meant “egregious”.

        • Paul Davis says:

          He definitely meant “egregious”…. but i just loke the double pissibolity of disunderstanding….. did i get any of that right? I suffer from mild dylsexier. Anyway, back to subject; here it is grey tart witch is being disgust.

  • Steeevyo says:

    I was at the performance. It was flawless albeit a little disjointed.
    Mozart and Bruckner don’t go too well together.
    After the performance Daniel Barenboim was honoured by the driector of Carnegie Hall for his 60 years to the day stage anniversary. The minor hints at Trump were a tiny part of Barenboims response to being given numerous ovations for an incredible lifetime achievement.
    I am a Trump supporter and was not in the least offended. Barenboim is a humanist and he deserves respect as somebody who is willing to listen to those opposing his views.
    But this is New York after all. People are against Trump here. He was basically playing it safe for the audience. Who cares really?

  • Dan Oria says:

    His speech was surely less boring than his Bruckner.

  • Kath says:

    Surprising and very disappointing that, after recently discovering this website and thinking it would have more cultured, informed people commenting, I see so many bitter, nasty comments by uninformed, or misinformed individuals, some saying rather vile things. I was in the audience on Friday and was very glad and inspired to be there. Let any of the nasty, negative commenters perform themselves at Carnegie Hall after a lifetime of study, then criticize. What a world we live in. It’s one thing to have an intelligent disagreement. It’s another to see so many say malicious and distasteful things. Is this what the new administration has wrought because it is “political correctness” to be polite? What we are in for in the coming years makes me shudder and embarrassed to be an American.

  • Beni Klarer says:

    Someone who listened in on this Bruckner cycle told me not to bother. A warning i did not need, but appreciate nonetheless. I had to endure way too many concerts of this conductor for business reasons. No idea why he is hired all the time. He seems to be a decent fella though.

  • George Xavier says:

    Who the Hell are you Dany Barenboim to preach us in our Carnegie Hall?
    Argentinian? Spanish? Palestinian?
    A virtucrat (Joseph Epstein)!
    An excellent piano player, a grossly overrated conductor, a malignant ego, an individual only your mother can love and above all an insufferable full!