Breaking: Now Berlin Philharmonic gives Barenboim a title

Breaking: Now Berlin Philharmonic gives Barenboim a title


norman lebrecht

June 07, 2019

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has just named Daniel Barenboim its Ehrendirigent, or honorary conductor.

The announcement follows his reinstallation this week at the Staatsoper under den Linden, officially cleared of allegations of bullying.

Barenboim was defeated in 1998 by Simon Rattle in his bid to become chief conductor of the Philharmonic. He first conducted the orchestra 50 years ago, in June 1969.





  • Pedro says:

    Fully deserved!

  • Harry Collier says:

    “Simon Rattle defeated Daniel Barenboim”. How standards have slipped at the Berlin Philharmonic since the golden decades at the beginning of the 1900s.

    • Pedro says:

      More the end of the eighties than the beginning of the nineties…

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Harry wrote “the golden decades at the beginning of the 1900s.” That was Nikisch, followed by Furtwängler. Arguably quite golden.

  • Brian says:

    The tendency to always keep giving more titles, more prestige and more money to those who already “have it all” bothers me.

    Give it to people that are less famous and wealthy; not to those who are already as famous and as wealthy as they need to be.

    • John Borstlap says:

      In the Middle Ages one said at such occasions: ‘The devil defecates at the mountain and not in the valley’.

      It’s the magnetism of worldly success: by conferring honor and success on someone who has already honor and success, one avoids thinking for oneself: it is not very difficult and does not require much courage. This mechanism does not say anything about merit, though – there are as many people who don’t and wo do deserve honor and success.

    • Enquiring mind says:

      Why not give the janitor the title of honorary conductor?

    • MacroV says:

      Barenboim has had a close relationship with the Berlin Phil for 50 years. Not sure how this is a “rich get richer” kind of situation. They’re not going to confer such an honor on someone who walks in off the street.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Are you sure the relationship was that close before the 80s? I remember they first recorded under Barenboim in the mid-80s, two Schubert symphonies. That was when they were in the midst of serious clashes with Karajan, after whose death their relationship with Barenboim blossomed. Am I missing something?

  • MacroV says:

    Unlike Lorin Maazel when they appointed Abbado, Barenboim didn’t pitch a fit and they’ve maintained a great relationship even while he worked across town. Good on them.

  • Alexander Tarak says:

    From Nikisch and Furtwängler to Rattle and Barenboim.
    No comment needed.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    The BPO would have been better off long-term if they had picked Barenboim rather than Rattle.
    The orchestra has noticeably slipped in terms of sound quality, ensemble accuracy, and energy during SR’s reign; I do not believe this would have happened with DB at the helm.
    SR was simply not equipped to handle the assignment of The Berlin Philharmonic. He should have stayed in Birmingham, where he was a great success and an asset to that community.

  • Ed says:

    Nice present.

  • Lady Weidenfeld says:

    Truly wonderful news on all counts and so deserved! Bravissimo

  • Martsin Smith says:

    I suspect many might have found titles to give him!

  • Mike Schachter says:

    I believe in the New Testament it says that to those that have more shall be given. I am no theologian to interpret this but it seems more apt in the 21st century than ever before in music, films etc.

  • Max Raimi says:

    The Berlin Philharmonic is self-governing, so it was the musicians who decided to confer this honor. This is hard to reconcile with the charges that Barenboim is abusive to musicians. He was my Music Director here in Chicago, and while I often found him blunt and outspoken when our playing failed to please him, I am very grateful to have played under him and cherish the memory of my years with him. That said, I am fully aware that many of my colleagues would disagree with that assessment; no leader is universally beloved, and DB was more controversial than most.

    • John Borstlap says:

      DB is a very gifted conductor and has made wonderful recordings with Wagner. But there is in his performances, be it orchestral or on the piano, a certain hardness, an intensity not softened at the edges with subtlety, which has something of an inhuman quality. His piano toucher is hard, lacks sensitivity, however expressive and eloquent it is. Also his taste is questionable, with his performing of entirely vacuous Liszt pieces while there are much betetr Liszt pieces. He seems to consider any piece of music, even the best works of genius, as mere vehicles for his own ego, instead using his ego at the service of works far, far superior to anything he could possibly dream of to understand the implications. In all these senses, he belongs to a bygone era, a late outgrowth of a rather unpleasant time of conductor worship. And his advocacy of Boulez is merely embarrassing…..

  • Has-been says:

    I find the snarky comments here petty and uninformed. After 50 years of performing with the Berlin Phil as soloist, conductor and recording artist Barenboim deserves this small token of appreciation.He has done more to further and enhance musical life in Berlin than anyone since the war.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I really have little opinion on this topic. I saw Barenboim conduct the Berlin Phil. at the Philharmonie in 1978, doing the Bruckner 9th symphony. It was a decent performance, but nothing earth shaking – nothing like the time I saw Karajan do Bruckner 5 in the Musikverein (VPO) in 1981. Anyway, I remember that the BPO’s tuba player kept switching back and forth between two different tubas, and I couldn’t hear him on either one! I do remember the loud but good oboe, as well the thick string textures that were associated with the Karajan years.

  • Simon Behrman says:

    I agree with Has-been.

    It is quite easy to pick holes in the character and musicianship of Furtwangler as much as Barenboim, Rattle, or anyone else. Whilst, personally, I revere Furtwangler, and many other conductors of that period, with the odd exception – Scherchen comes to mind – they were not that adept at keeping up with modern music, and they tended to be very aloof. One of the very admirable things about both Barenboim and Rattle is how consistently they have championed new music, and shown discernment in which music they have promoted. Yet at the same time they have excelled in many of the classics of the repertoire. They have also both been exemplary in engaging with the social role of music.

    As great as Furtwangler, Klemperer, Walter etc. all were, can you imagine any of them taking initiatives such as the East-West Divan or the work with schools that Rattle did in Berlin.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Rattle once organised an educational dance event with Berlin school children on the music of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printempts, which is a hilarious misjudgement. As for his ideas about new music, he has always been entirely conventional and bought unquestioning the orthodox party line from modernist historiography. Barenboim wrote eloquently in his books about the humanist message of classical music while advocating Boulez’ sonic art as a ‘must’ for today’s world, which is as much as helping the hangman laying the rope around your own neck. Etc. etc…. these people simply don’t have the time and the type of mind to reflect on more than superficial phenomenae and thus, their ideas about new music should not be taken seriously. Better listen to their performances and asses their musical talents as such.