Daniel Barenboim named as first honorary conductor of Berlin Philharmonic

Gramophone Wed 12th June 2019

The great Berlin orchestra recognises half a century of musical collaboration

Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker [Photo: Monika Rittershaus]

Daniel Barenboim conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker [Photo: Monika Rittershaus]

The Berlin Philharmoniker has announced Daniel Barenboim, 76, as its first honorary conductor. To mark the 50th anniversary of his first conducting appearance with the orchestra, he repeated the same programme as at his 1969 debut, Haydn, Beethoven and Schumann (the concert will soon be available in the orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall). After 229 concerts together and numerous recordings, the relationship between Barenboim and the German ensemble is more than just professional; it is intimate.

An example of this intimacy is the spontaneous concert Barenboim conducted during the weekend of the fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 12, 1989 – an event of historical and emotional significance to the citizens of the GDR. Barenboim performed Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, directing the orchestra from the piano. Then came the whirlwind Seventh Symphony and Mozart’s Overture to Così fan tutte (Barenboim and the BPO were in the middle of recoridng sessions, for Erato, of the complete opera). A recording of the concert was later released by Sony Classical.

In the spring of 1990, Barenboim took the Berlin Philharmoniker on its first tour of Israel. In 1992, he became the first honorary member of the orchestra, signifying, even then, a long and fruitful partnership. Now, almost three decades later, the relationship has only improved: ‘When we now name Daniel Barenboim our honorary conductor, we are not only honouring a great musician but a wonderful colleague and friend as well,’ said Berlin Philharmoniker board member Knut Weber.

Almost simultaneously, the Berlin State Opera announced the renewal of Barenboim’s contract as General Music Director for another five years, taking his tenure to 2027. Barenboim has led the company and its orchestra, the Staatskapelle Berlin, since 1992.

This week Gramophone shortlisted the Staatskapelle Berlin among the ten ensembles in contention for the Orchestra of the Year Award 2019 (the winner will be decided by a public vote). View the field, listen to the recordings and cast your vote

Edward Christian-Hare

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