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50th anniversary

June 18, 2014

Daniel Barenboim debuted as a pianist with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1964. To celebrate 50 years of sharing the stage, the musicians invited him for a concert Wednesday (18.06.2014) evening - their 260th together.

Barenboim conducting on stage
Image: Monika Rittershaus/Staatsoper Berlin

Daniel Barenboim was 21 when he first performed with the Berlin Philharmonic as a pianist. At the time, he was just beginning his career - already heralded as a sensation. Five decades after that concert on June 12, 1964, the orchestra's musicians will honor this "wonderful friendship," as Barenboim described it to the dpa news agency. He has since become one of the most famous classical musicians in the world.

The celebratory concert on June 18 under conductor Sir Simon Rattle will be equally global in its dimensions. Barenboim's performance of Johannes Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Major will be shown live in 160 European movie theaters as well as via livestream at the Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall. The concert in the Philharmonic has been sold out for months.

Sir Simon Rattle
Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the anniversary concertImage: picture-alliance/dpa

The orchestra has been at home in the Philharmonic in central Berlin since October 1963. At the end of the first season in the new building, Director General Wolfgang Stresemann commissioned the young Barenboim for a concert including Bela Bartok's first Piano Concerto -with success. Five years after his debut on piano, Barenboim performed as a conductor with the orchestra.

Stresemann had a stern warning for him, though, saying he wouldn't be able to pull off being a pianist as well as a conductor. "You have to choose," he told the young star.

That admonishment proved misguided. In the 260 performances Barenboim has since shared with the Berlin Philharmonic, he has often appeared simultaneously as a pianist and conductor.

At 71, Barenboim remains as active as ever. Born in Argentina, the holder of both Israeli and Palestinian passports founded his own music label several weeks ago. Since 1992, he has been the artistic and general music director of Berlin's Under den Linden opera house. Last year, he announced plans to turn one of the opera's buildings into a training center for his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. He also conducts at the Scala in Milan and tours around the world as a concert pianist.

Barenboim conducting the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Barenboim conducting his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded in 1999Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The celebrated maestro has initiated many projects during his career - perhaps the most famous of which being the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded in 1999. The unusual ensemble is made up of young musicians aged 14 to 25 from Egypt, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Andalusia. The orchestra meets once a year for a rehearsal phase followed by a concert tour.

ass/gsw (dpa, ape)