At no time during his seven-decade career did
consider slowing down his frenetic pace, until a serious neurological condition forced him to cancel performances and finally resign last month as music director of the Berlin State Opera after 30 years. in charge
Yet just two weeks later, he received a call at 7:15 a.m. Sunday with
an unexpected invitation from Milan's Teatro alla Scala to conduct three Mozart concertos
, after Daniel Harding canceled for family reasons.
Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim during an interview in Milan, on February 14, 2023. AP Photo
A couple of days later, Barenboim was already rehearsing at La Scala, a theater where he worked for almost a decade as principal director and later as musical director.
"It was like I was gone for a week, I was really moved, really," Barenboim told The Associated Press news agency.
There is no question that his health remains the number one concern after being diagnosed with what he has described only as a serious neurological condition.
He moves slowly and takes his time standing up.
However, people who have seen him rehearse say that his energy is evident as soon as he takes the baton.
"I will see day by day"
Despite illness, Barenboim, 80, is determined to occupy the conductor's podium as much as possible, even if it means sitting down, which he did for a New Year's concert in Berlin, and what he might do again. in Milan.
"We'll have a day-by-day approach: I'll go day by day," he said.
"I know you expect me to say that this disease has changed my life, but it hasn't," she insisted.
"The things that were very important to me, as a musician before, are still just as important. The things that weren't important are still not important. I can't say that I feel perfectly, but I feel good enough to conduct tomorrow, and I hope, on Thursday and Saturday. Then we'll see".
As for playing the piano, he commented: "The piano is another matter. It has only performed twice in public in the last year."
He did not reveal if he plays in private.
What is clear is that at no time during his seven-decade career across the globe, conducting orchestras from Berlin to Milan, Chicago, or Paris, did Barenboim consider slowing down his frenetic pace.
That was until his health forced it.
"I never felt my age"
"I never felt my age. I never considered that. That I was no longer 20, or 30, or 40, or 50, or 60, or 70," Barenboim said.
"I've been hit, but I feel good and I can make music. I'm very happy making music."
Resigning from the Berlin State Opera, known in German as the Staatsoper, made him sad but necessary, he said.
"It's a full-time job and I can't do it anymore."
In keeping with that institution, Barenboim
will conduct two concerts with the Berlin State Opera orchestra
later this month and hopes to present more.
"People don't know how to listen to music"
Barenboim is worried about the world now.
Putin's war in Ukraine, which he fails to understand.
The situation in Israel.
And the decision of some in the West to isolate Russian musicians, which he does not consider justified.
"Not all Russians are anti-Ukraine," he said.
Daniel Barenboim in 2017 at the State Opera in Berlin.
"Let's face it. We don't live in a very spiritual age today. The spiritual dimension has shrunk in every way," Barenboim said.
"I think it's very sad and I hope it's just a transition. I've known the world since the 1950s. For better or worse, I've always been a very happy person to visit the universe. But it's become very focused on concrete, it seems to me. Very material".
He believes that people can find salvation in music, but many, even musicians, go too fast to appreciate it.
"People don't know how to listen to music. They don't have to know the intricate technical details of composition. But you have to concentrate when you listen. You can't look at the phone or do other things," Barenboim said.
"And I think you're supposed to look for this spiritual state that music can give you. It's not something that comes by itself."
Barenboim's third concert in Milan on Saturday, featuring three Mozart symphonies, will be streamed on La Scala's new service, La Scala TV.