Barenboim ‘must be protected from himself’

Barenboim ‘must be protected from himself’


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2019

Accusations of musician harassment against Daniel Barenboim have provoked a change of tone in the Berlin press.

The Taggespiegel urges the Senate ‘to put a clear end to the glittering era, to protect the workaholic Barenboim from himself’ by reducing his title and his workload.

The Tageszeitung suggests that that year-round ‘radiation of the Sun King’ should be tempered by a broader artistic process.

The intendant of the Staatsoper, Matthias Schulz, says he is engaged in widespread consultations.



  • RW2013 says:

    ILMT! (ich lach mich tot!)
    This opinion from Frederik Hanssen, Berlin’s foremost Nullnummer !

  • Edgar says:

    Berliner Götterdämmerung…? Wer weiss, wie das wird…

  • Larry Dankel says:

    So I see Barenboim has been added to your obsessive list of bugaboos to replace Peter Gelb, at least temporarily.

  • Has-been says:

    Daniel Barenboim has done more for music in Berlin than any other musician. He personally saved, by his total commitment, the Staatsoper after the fall of communism and built the Staatsopern orchestra into a world class ensemble. He has created the West East Divan orchestra, a force for good in middle east politics.He has, in short, been a force for good in the world. At the same time he has maintained a tiring touring schedule as a pianist. Surly all this far outweighs any behavior issues of bad temper.

  • Zacharias Galaviz Guerra says:

    … and thus continues the further dilution of great artistry and musicianship…

    • The Original Anon says:

      Let him do solo piano recitals. If his artistry is that great, he doesn’t need anyone else along for the ride.

      If his artistry does require other people, he has to learn how to work with them.

  • Alexander says:

    whoa … tempers are running high , something is rotten in the state of Staatsoper 😉

  • Pedro says:

    I was at tonight’s performance of Elektra at the Berlin Staatsoper. It was superbly conducted by Barenboim who was justly much applauded when he brought the whole orchestra on stage.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    That makes no sense, any of it! He must have a contract which he fulfills, and how! About what and with whom would Schulz consult? Three so called complaints picked up from Facebook, one by an ex-member of the orchestra? Surely Schulz has more important things to do. Barenboim has always been a workaholic and always will be; what is new about that? I have no doubt that this great Orchestra knows full well how lucky they are to have him and this is a storm in a teacup.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    You don’t quote the following from Deutsche Welle:”The Staatsoper Berlin (Berlin state opera) and its resident orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin (Berlin state orchestra), have insisted that “confidence remains untouched” in their chief conductor Daniel Barenboim despite criticism of his aggressive leadership style.
    A statement from the opera board late on Friday said the two sides were looking forward to “more years of successful cooperation,” despite a deepening scandal.
    Despite the accusations, the director added that he had seen “an awful lot of solidarity for Barenboim” within the opera house.
    Barenboim was named general musical director at the Staatsoper 28 years ago and in 2000 became the chief conductor for life.
    He has also been lauded for his work at the helm of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and for setting up the West-Eastern Divan orchestra as a workshop for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians.

  • I say protect Barenboim from the German press and other ungratefuls: they come not to praise Barenboim but to bury him.

    • Andrew Powell says:

      Barenboim performances have always delivered a certain level of quality, not least because he ensures his projects get the (taxpayer) resources they need, but I’m not sure that critics or the public owe a debt of gratitude, as you suggest. He is handsomely paid. About burying him, well, Annabelle Weidenfeld notes below that he is “chief conductor for life,” so presumably his contract must be renewed.

      • Lady Weidenfeld says:

        You really think that because an artist is “handsomely paid” we should not be grateful when he gives us, time and again, interpretations, as conductor and pianist, which have no price! Do you not feel grateful when coming away from a great performance inspired, exhilerated, musically elevated or are you counting on your fingers what the artist got paid and how much your you paid for your ticket?

        • Andrew Powell says:

          What an artist shares is not his to give.

          • Lady Weidenfeld says:

            But he has to be capable of sharing and know HOW to share it! That is the difference between a great artist and a mediocre on!

          • El Grillo says:

            What an artist shares is everyone’s to give, and there’s no loss in giving, nothing is depleted, there’s no loss: nothing is gone.

            Music for example is wave patterns, and the way they react to each other. Well anyhow.

            E= MC-squared that involves something without mass, but that all energy comes from, the wave pattern side of the double split experiment (light itself). So there already (from the void, nothing) there’s no loss.

            As if music or any art isn’t an innate part of the human condition that’s there for everyone to find themselves in, what they already were. Only so and so can give it when it’s everyone?

          • El Grillo says:

            Science would say music is wave patterns moving through the air, at the speed of sound; and yet what’s air then, that it vibrates and carries emotions?

            The same light moves at a speed where time stops, and yet is has to then (if it’s a wave pattern ever) have something to vibrate in, something that allows time to stop while light is vibrating in it putting it into vibration.

            How can something be put into vibration with something moving through it at the speed that time stops?

            Somehow, I think there’s as little lack of potential there as that there’s this disconnection with who gives and who doesn’t, or that there’s some E-motion connection missing.

            What this has to do with Barenboim who knows? For all I know all it means is that it’s time for me to bow out of this conversation. But perhaps he really can’t be this source of evil that’s stealing everyone’s ability to give.

          • Tamino says:

            While this sounds noble, it’s nevertheless not so.
            Unless we validate this for any profession.

    • El Grillo says:

      Oh I see, now it’s throw freedom of the press out the window as “protection”, as if it’s not almost completely gone already.
      Or simply saying that someone is handsomely paid is ingratitude.

      Somehow [really] I don’t think that’s the kind of gratitude Barenboim would want. As if it shows gratitude to him, or would be complementary.

      Or that anyone needs to drive themselves crazy with such “counterpoint.”

  • Alviano says:

    Curious. I would have thought the City’s job was to protect the Staatsoper, not Barnboim.

  • Alviano says:

    That’s “Barenboim” sorry.

  • El Grillo says:

    I don’t think it’s wise to have to pick sides here, nor do I think it is wise to think you have to. Nor do I think it’s wise to try to make people think that it’s in picking sides that one feels they’re alive and doing something just. It just makes people invest in severity and extremity.

    When Barenboim said about his exwife Jacqueline (interview that goes with her last recording) that he had difficulty following her, or rather that he didn’t know what she was doing, I don’t know what to say. That’s like saying that you wanted the sun to come up at a different time, or not being able to empathize with universal emotions. But then he DID follow her when he accompanied her, despite what his conscious mind said. I also heard that when Jacqueline at first had signs of her illness, and she didn’t want to, couldn’t, or didn’t feel like doing things, he thought that she was being hysterical. But that’s what I heard from someone, a relative of a famous opera singer, and that’s hearsay.

    On the other side, when someone states that he went on neuroleptic medications because of Barenboim… Would it really be because of Barenboim or someone not being told how to deal with their feelings in their life or emotions? Something art is there for. Including music. And although there’s no concrete evidence that neuroleptics treat a chemical imbalance, there’s enough evidence that they create one, and that evidence is concrete. You disable someone’s mind from responding, or even having to deal with their response themselves, and that’s misleading. It hasn’t gone away it’s suppressed. You suppress something and you don’t find the magic in life that would transcend or bring resolution to the situation, and you might never find out what really was going on. And you haven’t treated a chemical imbalance you’ve created one that wasn’t there before.This also correlates with the disability, higher relapses rates, loss of life and spike in the occurrences of “mental illness” that happen after the initial period when symptoms are suppressed, something the advent of basically all psychiatric drugs statistically correlates with. I feel for anyone that would think they need to go on neuroleptics, but neuroleptics don’t in the long run correlate with recovery, and they mess around with neuro-chemicals the same as street drugs that used to be psychiatric drugs 50 years or so ago.

    More information would be at

    All of that said, I don’t think one achieves resolution would you have to take sides here. Hopefully Barenboim would learn that to get the results he wants he doesn’t need to have the fits he has, and others will also find answers that work for them themselves.

    Barenboim also is a musician, he may have fits but he’s not starting wars. To think one fixes his “fits” by investing in disciplinarian forces that might not even acknowledge what music can do if Barenboim wasn’t there, forces or institutions that would never care to try to resolve the situation of wars the way Barenboim has, that’s incredibly deceiving.

    Sorry, it is….

    • Robert Groen says:

      El Grillo, I don’t doubt that you mean well but honestly: I haven’t a clue what you’re on about!

      • El Grillo says:

        It’s real easy to say you don’t know what someone is “on about” not having looked into the material being discussed in detail, from the source.

        That also seems quite easy when someone shares information that might help others acquire more perspective beyond what’s usually shared, especially when disingenuous.

        There’s also a difference between honesty and dismissing what someone says from lack of objectivity.

        From this article, which is the whole article not just the portion shared here.

        Hilgers arbeitete zwischen 1998 und 2013 in gleicher Position wie jetzt in München bei der Staatskapelle Berlin, wurde nach eigener Aussage kurz nach Beginn der Zusammenarbeit von Barenboim vorgeführt und gedemütigt. Ein befreundeter Arzt hat über Jahre seine Behandlung dokumentiert. Auch Psychopharmaka habe er wegen seines cholerischen Chefs schlucken müssen. Der ihn, so Hilgers, sogar noch beleidigte, als er schon gekündigt hatte.”

        The link to further goes into detail for people to gain perspective.

        Further more that you supposedly have no clue to understanding really is no comment on me. There are enough references or “clues” when not dismissed.

        I’m not going to waste my time being played at like this.

  • Karl says:

    Barenboim was correct when he said that these stories come up now because he is renegotiating his contract. He has also stated that he would resign when he feels he no longer has the energy to lead the Staatsoper. Unfortunately there is no sign of him taking this opportunity to resign.

  • klavierBWV988 says:

    Mr. Arrogance has been exposed.

  • William Lau says:

    I’m not a resident of Berlin, but I had the fortune of hearing Barenboim conduct a number of concerts and operas with his Staatsoper forces. Concerts include the two Elgar symphonies, Mahler 1,5,7,9, Das Lied von der Erde. Smetana Ma Vlast, Bruckner 8, Stravinsky Sacre coupled with Boulez’s Rituel, two Beethoven concerti with Argerich. Operas include Wagner’s Ring, Parsifal and Meistersinger, Martinu’s Juliette.

    So I believe I could base my argument on an audience point of view. I find this site to be very despicable in building up a facade of false neutrality, then proceed to refer to almost exclusively detractors’ views in an attempt to launch an international cyber-bullying attempt to topple Barenboim.

    Most recently I heard Barenboim and the Staatskapelle in Brahms 1 and 2. It was a performance of astounding freshness, the orchestra playing with unbelievable zest and spontaneity. Does that sound like a terrorized and bullied orchestra? Where on earth can someone terrorize an orchestra into playing like champions instead of slaves or robots?

  • There’s something unsettling about what is going on with this sudden flurry of reports about Barenboim. A few weeks ago two journalists from Der Spiegel flew from Berlin to Trossingen (a long trip including an expensive flight followed by a 90 minute regional train ride) to interview my wife, Abbie Conant. They said they wanted to talk about the #MeToo movement in Germany.

    When they met Abbie, however, they didn’t actually want to talk about #MeToo in Germany. They just wanted to find out if she had any information about Barenboim sexually abusing women. Abbie didn’t have any such information, and she found it odd that they had no other interests in the topic since sexual abuse which is truly a problem in Germany’s classical music world. The trip by the two journalists seemed to just be a fishing expedition just to dig up dirt just about Barenboim.

    In fact, we even had a lingering feeling that we should warn Barenboim that their seemed to be some sort of campaign afoot against him. We don’t know him at all, but the whole thing seemed so odd. So we weren’t surprised when we saw this sudden flurry of rather woolly articles clearly designed to discredit him.

    Now as then, we’ve been wondering what the actual motive is. It doesn’t seem like such a large press campaign would be motivated just to get him out of his Berlin job, though its possible. We’ve been wondering if his activities in the Middle East might also be behind these efforts these efforts to discredit him. Also unlikely, but possible. He’s become a real thorn in the side of quite a few people.

    It’s an odd circumstance for Abbie and I, since we are normally very inclined to side with musicians against conductors, but this whole situation is so fishy we’re left with doubts. It’s also troubling that a large media campaign in Germany against a Jewish person not only awakens terrible memories, but could also play into the wrong hands.

    • Lady Weidenfeld says:

      WIlliam I find what you say highly interesting and bears out my conviction that there has to be an agenda for what is clearly a witch hunt! Of course it is impossible to know the motives but I think those Spiegel reporters should be exposed for trying their best to rake up trouble for Barenboim so that people who know no better than to believe what they read should be enlightened!

      • I think it is more likely that the two journalists from Der Spiegel heard about the growing complaints of the musicians, which are largely justified, and were trying to get a jump on the story. From that perspective, they were just doing their job. There’s not need to castigate them.

        At the same time, we must remember that people in cultural politics often try to manipulate the press against each other. I feel the press has been played a bit. I’m happy to see the tide turning in Barenboim’s favor, but he must also take to heart the justified complaints of his musicians.

    • Tamino says:

      That is very interesting information. Maybe with his Middle East peace activities, he has made a few enemies too many…
      Did someone suggest him for the Nobel peace price and this is the preemptive counter campaign?
      That he is a tyrant in Berlin backstage is not new. So the timing of all this is indeed peculiar.

  • El Grillo says:

    From nothing that has anything directly to do with this site, I happened to have a recording of Barenboim conducting with me on the bus today, and a walk-man for the CD. I love listening to CDs on the bus, and had it with me by chance. Also for non negotiable reasons, again nothing to do with this site. Was one of Mozart’s closest friends (female but NOT his wife) really also Paul Dukas, which wouldn’t seem crazy, even with linear time? So, not even really having gone into it or whether it makes any sense to anyone why, I had the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, along with Peter and the Woolf narrated by Jacqueline Du Pres. But I was quite surprised to hear how Barenboim in his conducting sometimes really to me seems to go on little rampages. Not everyone in the orchestra can keep up, and it’s like a whole group of people taking a dash somewhere, and then some get a bit behind. I’m sure Barenboim thinks he’s adding energy and direction to the music, but there’s really ensemble problems. Slight as they may be.

    And now, I don’t know how this works when there’s need for funding, and he goes through and makes jabs around to see where he can get it, what otherwise would remain dormant. I don’t know whether the same energy helps get funding where it would otherwise be lacking, I can see that it could and that seems to have been the case. I also don’t know the real difficulties in conducting a whole orchestra and having to deal with such problems. But I’m not unconvinced that Barenboim can on occasion say things that only communicate his frustration rather than are helpful, and really are the result of him not stopping for a moment to consider when in front of the orchestra. Things that are more the result of his intensity which in the other situation regarding not holding back when funding is needed end up getting a different result.

    • Esther Cavett says:

      People say what a great sense for politics DB has. All that lobbying he’s capable of, with an address book full of the Berlin movers and shakers.

      Well, it didn’t help him when his goal was to be head of the Berlin Phil did it ? I’m sure Sir Simon did none of the politicking.

      Blimey, if a slightly out-of-time timpani played can upset DB, just imagine how he must have been getting *that* call ! “Sorry maestro, the gig went to Simon”.