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Debate: Music or Daniel?

Updated Thursday, 29th June 2006

Community visitor Agnes Kory started a debate on the 2006 Reith Lectures, suggesting that the lecturer might have been more interested in himself than in his subject.

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The current series of Reith Lectures delivered by Daniel Barenboim is supposed to be about Barenboim’s views on music. But these lectures in reality are about Daniel Barenboim. Notwithstanding the questions allegedly raised by Reith Lecture audiences as well as the spirited discussion on the BBC’s Reith webpage, the main issue is surely not concerned with the points raised by Maestro Barenboim but with the Maestro himself.

Daniel Barenboim is a musical genius, a rarity. Great many of his musical performances attest to this supposition. His musical memory is unbeatable, his energy is endless. The Maestro is on the very top of the music profession, both in terms of achievement and in acknowledgement. But, evidently, Daniel Barenboim is driven for even more acknowledgement, more control and more power than what is possible within the world of professional music.

The introduction to each of Barenboim’s Reith Lectures states: St John said, "In the beginning was the word", while Goethe claimed that, "In the beginning was the deed". But in these lectures Daniel Barenboim's contention is that: “In the beginning was sound.”

In other words, Barenboim is not only in a league with St John and Goethe but he is above them. Even if he fails to convince us with his arguments, by the fifth lecture this St John-Goethe-Barenboim line will be ingrained in the public.

The lectures are attended by celebrities (though Chicago was not as spectacular as London). The important aspect here is to demonstrate that celebrities flock to learn from the Master. It so happens that in some cases these celebrities are not interested in their own questions, in other cases they are more qualified to lecture rather than question the Maestro.

Barenboim’s cherry-picked West-Eastern Divan Orchestra - consisting of talented, young and privileged (that is educated) musicians from various Arab countries and Israel – is not only not a solution/help for the Israel/Palestinian conflict but it is an insult to all those Palestinian and Israeli people who have been working tirelessly for decades on the ground to bring about peace. Residing in Germany – as Barenboim does - and delivering occasional high profile, televised concert tours with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra seems a long way from the realities of the conflict on the ground. Indeed; Barenboim’s attitude to Palestinians and Israelis is unacceptably patronising.

The theatrically staged five-city tour of the Reith Lectures and the televised tours with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will keep and raise Barenboim’s profile outside the world of professional music but they will contribute neither to profound scholarship on music nor, indeed, to peace in the Middle-East.





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