Watch: 'Artist of the century' Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin

See the influential conductor and the 450-year-old orchestra in action.

UPDATE: Due to the withdrawal of Maestro Barenboim because of health reasons, the Staatskapelle Berlin concerts originally scheduled at the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall on December 5 and 6, 2023 will not take place. 

by Jake Cline

When Daniel Barenboim resigned from his post as general music director of the Berlin State Opera this past January, Klaus Lederer, the city's senator for culture, hailed the conductor and pianist as "an artist of the century." He could have made that "two centuries." Born in 1942, Barenboim has been a musician for nearly all his 81 years. According to his official biography, Barenboim made his "piano debut" in 1950 in Buenos Aires, his birthplace, and four years later, at 11 years old, performed with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and studied conducting with Russian composer Igor Markevitch.

From there, Barenboim became one of the most acclaimed and recognizable artists in classical music. He has conducted, performed with and led orchestras from Vienna to Chicago and Tel Aviv; Barenboim moved to Israel at 10 years old with his family and holds Israeli and Palestinian citizenship. In 1999, he founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with famed Palestinian writer and intellectual Edward Said "so that," as he wrote in an October essay for The Guardian, "young musicians from across the Middle East could gather, talk and perform together." He says his work with the orchestra, and the attendant Barenboim-Said Academy, "is probably the most important activity of my life."

Close behind, then, are the three decades he led the Berlin State Opera and its house ensemble, Staatskapelle Berlin, which originated in 1570 in Brandenburg. As The New York Times recently reported, Barenboim "brought the Staatskapelle to new heights" and "helped define German culture after reunification." His successor, conductor Christian Thielemann, will assume control of the opera next September. 

"I don't attempt to define what music is," Barenboim told CBC Radio in 2008. "I try to observe how it is possible to see music, how it affects different human beings. Because sound is a very extraordinary phenomenon. It is a purely physical phenomenon that doesn't live on this Earth. It only comes into this Earth when a human being makes it — in other words, when he plays or sings or whatever the case may be."

Following are instances of Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin making, discussing and enjoying something phenomenal.

1. Staatskapelle Berlin and Barenboim perform Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15 Il.Largo.


2. Staatskapelle Berlin and Barenboim perform Brahms' Third Symphony in Buenos Aires.


3. Barenboim presents "5 Minutes On ... Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1 (D minor)."


4. Barenboim discusses "courage in music" for his online series Deconstructed.


5. The 1989 Concert for People From the GDR featuring Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic.


Bonus: Staatskapelle Berlin plays "Happy Birthday" for Barenboim on his 80th birthday, November 15, 2022.


Photo of Daniel Barenboim and Staatskapelle Berlin courtesy Monika Rittershaus.