Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim gave an impassioned speech at the BBC Proms, calling for European unity and warning against the dangers of nationalism and “isolationist tendencies”.
Barenboim was directing Orchestra Staatskapelle Berlin on Sunday night at the Royal Albert Hall and ended the evening with a speech expressing his fears about the political climate across Europe.
The 74-year-old, who remains one of the most venerated classical musicians in the world and was married to British cellist Jacqueline du Pré, said his affection for the UK had made him feel moved to speak out.
“When I look at the world with so many isolationist tendencies, I get very worried,” said Barenboim. “And I know I’m not alone. I was married in this country and I lived here for many years, and I was shown so much affection whilst I lived here that this kind of gave me the impetus, if you want, to say what I would like to say.”
The issue, he said was not “the policies of this country and of that country. The main problem of today is that there is not enough education. That there is not enough education for music, we’ve known for a long time. But now there is not enough education about whom we are, what is a human being, and how he is to relate with others of the same kind.”
Barenboim, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1942 and moved with his family to Israel in 1952, chose entirely English compositions for the Proms performance, including including Elgar’s Second Symphony and the UK premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Deep Time.
He pointed to it as an example of how music and musicians never confined themselves to national borders – that no one batted an eyelid at an Argentine-Israeli conducting a German orchestra playing English music – and that a similar spirit should be embraced across Europe.
“This is why music is so important,” he said. “And these isolationist tendencies and nationalism in its very narrow sense is something that…