Barenboim to perform on Germany′s 60th birthday celebrations | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 22.05.2009
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Barenboim to perform on Germany's 60th birthday celebrations

Acclaimed conductor Daniel Barenboim, who has lived and worked in Berlin since reunification in 1989, is to perform during celebrations on Saturday to mark 60 years of the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Conductor Daniel Barenboim during a rehearsal in Vienna

Barenboim is well placed to perform at an event suffused with Germany's 20th-century history

The decision to have Barenboim conduct Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to mark the 60th anniversary of Germany's post-war constitution, or "Basic Law," comes as no surprise.

The Argentinean-born pianist and music director of Berlin's most respected opera house, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, is one of the few artists in Germany whose own life has been closely intertwined with the country's and, in particular, Berlin's recent history.

"I'm not just a Jew or Argentinean or musician who lives in Germany," Barenboim told German news agency dpa this week. "A modern person defines himself above all through the possibility to have several identities."

Difficult relationship

Born in 1942 in Buenos Aires, the grandson of Russian emigrants, Barenboim moved to Israel in 1952 with his parents.

In 1954, he was forced to turn down an invitation by his idol, renowned German conductor Wilhelm Furtwaengler, to play with the Berlin Philharmonic in the German capital after Barenboim's father raised objections.

The older Barenboim felt that the time wasn't ripe for a Jewish musician to perform in Germany just nine years after the end of the Second World War and the fall of the Nazis.

It was only in 1964 that Barenboim traveled to Berlin to play the piano on the 10th death anniversary of Furtwaengler.

His next legendary performance in the city took place more than two decades later.

Berliners celebrate the fall of the Wall

Barenboim conducted a legendary Beethoven concert in Berlin just days after the fall of the Wall

On November 12, 1989, just three days after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Barenboim once again traveled to the freshly reunited German capital - this time to conduct what is now considered an iconic Beethoven concert with the Berlin Philharmonic for the city's new residents who had grown up in the communist eastern sector.

"Realization of a utopia"

A year after that concert, Barenboim took over as music director of Berlin's Staatsoper Unter den Linden located in former communist East Berlin - a post he still holds and cherishes.

"In a way, the Staatsoper is the realization of a utopia," he told dpa. "This is where we've torn down the psychological wall between east and west. When we practiced, we never thought that an East German should take up a particular position in the orchestra. We didn't westernize the former East but rather we created something new from the former East and the former West."

Barenboim is also well known for founding the West-East Divan Orchestra in 1999, together with late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said. It brings together young Arab and Israeli musicians and aims to promote dialogue and understanding between them.

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