Due to worsening health, Daniel Barenboim is bidding farewell as musical director and chief of the Berlin State Opera. Only last October, the conductor had laid down the baton, putting a temporary pause on his conducting duties.
In a personal statement, published Friday, January 6th on Die Staatsoper Unter den Linden website, the 80-year-old Barenboim regretted that over the past year, his health had “deteriorated significantly,” and that he could “no longer deliver the performance which is rightly demanded of a General Music Director.” Therefore, he added, he asked for his audience’s “understanding” of his decision to give up the position as of January 31st, 2023.
Daniel Barenboim had been chief of the centuries-old institution since 1992. His predecessors include such illustrious figures as Erich Kleiber, Herbert von Karajan, Richard Strauss, and Giacomo Meyerbeer. “We have become and will remain a musical family over the years,” Barenboim wrote of his connection with the famed opera house. He thanked his staff, personal assistant, and also several politicians, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
He concluded that he would “remain closely connected with music—as long as I live—and am willing to continue working as a conductor in the future, also and especially with the Staatskapelle Berlin.” Since 1992, Barenboim has also been the Staatskapelle’s ‘Staatskapellmeister,’ i.e. its principal conductor.
The Staatskapelle Berlin is the resident orchestra of the State Opera, and—having been founded in 1570—one of the oldest in the world.
The State Opera’s director, Matthias Schulz, said that the institution “is indebted to Daniel Barenboim to no end,” since, for over 30 years, he had lent the house “his inexhaustible strength as an artistic personality with worldwide charisma.” Barenboim managed to secure many millions in subsidies for the State Opera during those 30 years.
Last October, the Argentine-born conductor, who is classically trained in the piano, had already temporarily resigned from his conducting work. “It is with a mixture of confidence and sadness that I announce that I will stop some of my performances in the coming months,” he said then, right after having secured a Lifetime Achievement Award from the UK-based Gramophone, the world’s best-known classical music magazine. His health appeared to have gradually deteriorated in the months before. He is known to suffer from neurological problems.
On New Year’s Day, Barenboim was briefly back at work in Berlin, though he had to refrain from standing. On Tuesday, January 3rd, it was announced that he will conduct concerts on January 6th, 7th, and 8th with the Berliner Philharmoniker, featuring Argentine pianist Martha Argerich (81). What other scheduled concerts under Barenboim’s direction will still take place shall be announced at a later date.
The January 7th concert can be viewed here.
Barenboim is known for his dedication to German repertoire, most notably his recordings of complete symphonic cycles by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Schubert, and Schumann.
Thus far, he has received seven Grammy awards, an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, France’s Légion d’honneur both as a Commander and Grand Officier, and the German Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband.