Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. He received his first piano lessons from his mother at age five. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. At the age of seven he gave his first public concert in Buenos Aires. In 1952, he and his parents moved to Israel.
At age eleven, Daniel Barenboim took part in conducting classes in Salzburg under Igor Markevich. In the summer of 1954, he also met Wilhelm Furtwängler and played for him. Furtwängler then wrote, “The eleven-year-old Daniel Barenboim is a phenomenon.” In the following two years, Barenboim studied harmony and composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
At age ten, Daniel Barenboim gave his international debut performance as a solo pianist in Vienna and Rome; followed by concerts in Paris (1955), London (1956), and New York (1957), where he played with Leopold Stokowski. Since then, he has regularly toured Europe and the United States, but also South America, Australia, and the Far East.
In 1954, Daniel Barenboim began his recording career as a pianist. In the 1960s, he recorded Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with Otto Klemperer, Brahm’s Piano Concertos with Sir John Barbirolli, and the Mozart piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, this time serving both as pianist and conductor.
Ever since his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. Between 1975 and 1989, he was principal conductor of the Orchestre de Paris, where he often performed contemporary works by composers such as Lutoslawski, Berio, Boulez, Henze, Dutilleux, and Takemitsu and others.
Daniel Barenboim gave his debut as an opera conductor at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. In 1981, he conducted for the first time in Bayreuth, where he would conduct every summer for the next eighteen years, until 1999. During this time, he conducted Tristan und Isolde, Ring des Nibelungen, Parsifal, and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
Between 1991 and June 2006, Daniel Barenboim held the position of Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 2006 the musicians of the orchestra named him Honorary Conductor for Life. Since 1992, Barenboim has been General Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, where he was also artistic director from 1992 to August 2002. In 2000, the Staatskapelle Berlin appointed him Principal Conductor for Life.
Both in the opera as well as the on the concert stage, Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin have acquired a large repertoire of symphonic works. The cyclical performances and recordings of all operas by Richard Wagner at the Staatsoper and of all symphonies by Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann were met with universal with praise. At the FESTTAGE 2007 Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez performed the complete cycle of symphonies of Gustav Mahler at the Berlin Philharmonie.
Beside the great classic-romantic repertoire, Daniel Barenboim continues to focus on contemporary music. The premiere of Elliot Carter’s only opera What next? took place at the Staatsoper. The Staatskapelle’s concert repertoire regularly includes compositions of Boulez, Rihm, Mundry, Carter and Höller for example.
In February 2003, Daniel Barenboim, the Staatskapelle and the chorus of the Staatsoper were awarded a Grammy for their recording of Wagner’s Tannhäuser. In March 2003, he and the Staatskapelle were honoured with the Wilhelm-Furtwängler-Preis.
Musicians of the Staatskapelle have been actively involved in setting up a music kindergarten in Berlin that was initiated and founded by Daniel Barenboim in September 2005.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim, together with the Palestinian literary scholar Edward Said, set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra which brings together young musicians from Israel and the Arab countries every summer. The orchestra seeks to enable a dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East and to promote this through the experience of making music together. Musicians of the Staatskapelle Berlin have participated as teachers in this project since its foundation.
In summer of 2005, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra presented a concert of historical significance in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, which was broadcast on television and recorded on DVD.
Daniel Barenboim also initiated a project for music education in the Palestinian territories which includes the foundation of a music kindergarten as well as a Palestinian youth orchestra.
In 2002 Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said were awarded the Príncipe de Asturias Prize in the Spanish town of Oviedo for their peace efforts.Daniel Barenboim has received numerous important awards, amongst them the Tolerance Prize by the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing, Germany’s Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern, the Buber-Rosenzweig-Medal, the Wolf Foundation’s Arts Prize in the Knesset in Jerusalem, the Peace Prize by the Korn and Gerstenmann Foundation in Frankfurt as well as the Hessische Friedenspreis. In addition Daniel Barenboim was also presented with the "Kulturgroschen,” the highest honour awarded by the Deutscher Kulturrat, the international Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis as well as the Goethe medal.
Between January and April 2006 Mr. Barenboim delivered the BBC Reith Lectures, and in September 2006 he gave a six part lecture series at Harvard University as Charles Eliot Norton Professor. In 2007 he received the honorary doctorate of the University of Oxford and was given "la Cravate de Commandeur dans l'Ordre national de la Légion d'Honneur". In October of the same year, Daniel Barenboim was also awarded with the prize for art and culture “Praemium Imperiale” by the Japanese imperial family. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, named Daniel Barenboim UN messenger of peace in September 2007. In May 2008, he became honorary citizen of the city of Buenos Aires (“Ciudadano Ilustre”). In February 2009, he was awarded the Moses Mendelssohn Medal for his contribution to tolerance and international understanding. In 2010 he received an Honorary Degree in Music by the Royal Academy of Music in London. In February this year, he was awarded the German “Kulturpreis” for his life achievement in music. In October he was honoured with the “Preis des Westfälischen Friedens” in Münster.
With the opening of the season 2007/2008 Daniel Barenboim began a close relationship with the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as "Maestro Scaligero" where he conducts opera and concert performances and plays in chamber music concerts.
Daniel Barenboim has published a number of books: the autobiography A Life in Music, and Parallels and Paradoxes, which he wrote together with Edward Said. In the summer of 2008, his book Everything is connected was published. Together with Patrice Chéreau, he published Dialoghi su musica e teatro. Tristano e Isotta in December of the same year.