Barenboim returns to Chicago

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
John F
Posts: 19967
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Barenboim returns to Chicago

Post by John F » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:37 am

Daniel Barenboim reflects on his return to CSO, 12 years later
October 23, 2018
Howard Reich

It has been 12 years since conductor Daniel Barenboim stood before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which he led as music director from 1991 to 2006 (and as music director designate beginning in 1989). That’s a remarkably long absence considering his deep ties to the CSO – which he first guest-conducted in 1970 – and the profundities of his relationship with an orchestra he helped shape. For during Barenboim’s tenure, he appointed 40 musicians to the CSO, including nine principals.

So when Barenboim returns to lead the ensemble in subscription concerts Nov. 1-3, one question will be foremost among many: Why has he stayed away? “Because when I finished, I finished – I don’t’ really believe in going back,” says the maestro, 75, who holds the position of general music director of the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin for life. I closed the chapter. I don’t know – there was no special reason. But now when Mr. Muti asked me to come, I said, ‘Why not?’” adds Barenboim, referencing CSO music director Riccardo Muti.

“When I started conducting (the CSO) in 1970, I was not exactly full of experience, and this was a fantastic thing for me. The orchestra liked me very much, and I adored them, and I could learn a lot of things. … It’s a very long relationship. Many reasons and many memories that make me very happy to go back.”

So the reunion will be significant on musical and personal terms for conductor, CSO musicians and audience. Regardless of how one assessed Barenboim’s podium methods, there was no question that he transformed the ensemble. The brilliant, rhythmically driven, often tightly wound performances of Georg Solti – Barenboim’s kinetic predecessor as music director – gave way to a warmer, more free-flowing lyricism.
As former Tribune classical music critic John von Rhein put it in 2006, when Barenboim was stepping down, “Any recording of his achievements in Chicago must acknowledge his extraordinary success in turning a Solti Chicago Symphony into a Barenboim Chicago Symphony.” Barenboim, added von Rhein, left “the orchestra at the peak of their collaboration. We may never know why he has chosen to do so now. But we do know one thing: Daniel Barenboim will be greatly missed.”

The feeling apparently has been mutual, with the conductor eager to discover how the orchestra has developed during his years away. “I’m going with a sort of sentimental feeling, but also a lot of curiosity,” says Barenboim. “The woodwind section is practically new to me. I’m looking forward.”

Looking back, how does Barenboim view his CSO tenure today? “I tell you – you don’t need me to say it was a great orchestra – the whole world knows,” he says. “But let me tell you what was unique about it, and that was the professional ethic of the orchestra. I have never encountered that in another orchestra.

“And I always remember Bud Herseth,” adds Barenboim, referring by nickname to the CSO’s late, legendary principal trumpet, Adolph Herseth. "After he was there 40-something years, he never made a mistake. Then we did a concert performance of ‘Elektra,’ which he didn’t know,” says Barenboim, citing the Richard Strauss opera. “And there was one entrance in ‘Elektra’ where it’s not evident where to come in. And he came in a bar too soon in the rehearsal. I didn’t say anything.

“Later he says: ‘I see in your face you are not happy.’ “I said: ‘It doesn’t matter.’ I finally showed it to him, and he did it perfectly. And he came to see me afterward. He said: ‘I never wanted, nor do I ever want in the future, to be corrected by a conductor, because I think it’s my job to play everything as best as is possible, as best as I can, and the conductor can tell me: A little more like this, a little more like that, softer, louder, whatever it is. But I want to avoid being corrected. This is my pride.’ And I thought that was the most wonderful thing one could hear from a musician.”

But there was another factor that Barenboim believes also has distinguished the CSO from of its peers. And he has an intriguing way of describing it. “Chicago Symphony is one of the few orchestras that when you stood in front of it, you felt there was something that was – how shall I say? – from the gut Chicago Symphony,” says Barenboim.

“I had tremendous respect for Solti, for instance – tremendous musician, great conductor. But there were some musical things that I thought otherwise. … So whenever I tried to change something in all the years in Chicago, I thought to myself: Is that something that comes from the influence of one conductor, in this case Solti? Or is this from the gut Chicago Symphony? And if I replied with the second response, I would not touch. Because we come and go, but the orchestra stays.”

Barenboim, who will conduct the CSO in Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s tone poem “Ma Vlast” (“My Country”), also will lead the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in Richard Strauss’s “Don Quixote” and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in Orchestra Hall on Nov. 5. The ensemble grew out of the West-Eastern Divan workshop that Barenboim and the late Palestinian writer/scholar Edward Said created in 1999 to bring together Arab and Israeli musicians. In this orchestra, instrumentalists on opposite sides of a thus-far intractable conflict play together.

A noble idea, but one wonders how much difference it really has made in the torments of the Middle East. “The project was never a political project,” says Barenboim, who was born in Argentina in 1942 and moved with his family to Israel a decade later. “People think it is, and the people have often described it as an orchestra for peace, which of course it cannot be. Peace doesn’t need an orchestra. Peace needs justice for the Palestinians and security for Israel, put in a nutshell.

“What this orchestra can do is show the members who decided to come that the narrative – outside of the music – that the narrative on the other side is something that must be respected. You don’t have to necessarily agree with it, but you have to respect it. From that point of view, it is a huge success, because I think every musician who has been through it thinks differently of the other than when he first came.

“Musically, it has become a wonderful orchestra. The sad part,” adds Barenboim, “is that it has a message – the message of dialogue, if you want – (that) has not really impregnated the area. And we have many admirers in Israel and many detractors, and the same proportion in Palestine,” observes Barenboim. “I would be very worried if we only had admirers on one side and detractors on the other.”
John Francis

maestrob
Posts: 5692
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Barenboim returns to Chicago

Post by maestrob » Thu Oct 25, 2018 12:17 pm

Thanks, John, for that. Barenboim has not always been my favorite conductor, but he is a great one, as some of his recent recordings have shown (Bruckner, Elgar, Manon). I wish I could hear his Ma Vlast live: Chicago is my favorite American orchestra right now, and has been since I first heard them under Reiner. The tone quality of that orchestra has remained first-rate, no matter who's on the podium.

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 17736
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Re: Barenboim returns to Chicago

Post by Lance » Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:09 pm

Excellent article. I enjoyed Barenboim mostly as a pianist, but then not always. Cannot put my finger on the reasons. As a conductor, I didn't collect his recordings with vigour, but, of course, have some. He is a superb musician, for sure.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

CharmNewton
Posts: 1944
Joined: Sun Jun 08, 2003 9:10 pm

Re: Barenboim returns to Chicago

Post by CharmNewton » Fri Oct 26, 2018 1:13 am

Barenboim has a long relationship with the Chicago Symphony going back to 1970. I'm not sure his remarks aren't hiding hurt feelings at not being asked to return sooner. Giulini was never asked back after his last concert in 1978, although he did return several times with the L.A. Philharmonic. He was the only conductor I ever saw who received standing ovations before a concert began.

John

maestrob
Posts: 5692
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2008 11:30 am

Re: Barenboim returns to Chicago

Post by maestrob » Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:57 am

Lance wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:09 pm
Excellent article. I enjoyed Barenboim mostly as a pianist, but then not always. Cannot put my finger on the reasons. As a conductor, I didn't collect his recordings with vigour, but, of course, have some. He is a superb musician, for sure.
IMHO Barenboim's DGG set of Beethoven sonatas is much better than his first traversal for EMI. Still, I prefer other pianists in Beethoven sets (Sherman, Arrau, Brendel, Richter (in individual Sonatas), etc.).

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 33 guests