Barenboim returns with warning on music lessons

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The Independent Online

When Daniel Barenboim returns to the Royal Festival Hall in the new year, where he made his London debut at the age of 13, he is planning to launch an impassioned plea to educate young people about music.

It will be the first time in more than 40 years that Barenboim has performed all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas in London; the last time he played them in their entirety was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967.

But as well as performing eight concerts, the legendary pianist and conductor is using his return to the Southbank next month to warn that in many countries, music has disappeared from the education curriculum, making it appear elitist and depriving people of a life-enriching experience.

Barenboim will deliver a series of lectures, as the first speaker in the Southbank Centre's "Artist as Leader" programme, looking at the role of the artist in society.

He said: "Music has disappeared from the education curriculum and this has far-reaching consequences. It means there are billions of people who have no contact with music, and I believe their lives are all the poorer for that."

In the Southbank Centre members' magazine, he said: "The problem is that music now appears only to a small quantity of the population and therefore it is too expensive, which in turn makes music look elitist, which of course it isn't."

He also added: "The Beethoven piano sonatas are like an artistic diary, like a journal. There is hardly any other output from any composer, in any form, that gives such a clear picture of a composer's development and transformation."

But in his concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, Barenboim has decided against playing the sonatas in chronological order. Instead, each concert will include a late sonata, a major early sonata and a middle one.

"In a certain way, part of me is sorry that I don't play them in chronological order, because that would have really given the journey its full meaning, but the programmes are not really well balanced when you do that."

Barenboim, born in Buenos Aires in 1942 to parents of Jewish-Russian descent, started playing the piano at five, taught by his parents. He performed his first concert in Buenos Aires when he was seven. His family later moved to Israel and took him to Salzburg in Austria to continue his musical education. By the time he was 11, Barenboim was described by the great conductor Wilhelm Frtwangler as a "phenomenon".

In 1967, Barenboim married the cellist Jacqueline du Pre, with whom he performed and recorded until she got multiple sclerosis. She died in 1987 and in 1988, Barenboim married Elena Bashkirova.