Barenboim asks for Euro-unity at Proms
DANIEL BARENBOIM, the acclaimed conductor and opponent of Brexit, interrupted a BBC Proms concert to make an impassioned plea for European unity.
A day after pianist Igor Levit performed an improvised version of the EU anthem, Barenboim took to the podium to warn about the dangers of nationalism in what are fast becoming the anti-brexit Proms.
Beginning by telling an audience at the Royal Albert Hall that his words were “not political”, Barenboim said: “When I look at the world with so many isolation [ist] tendencies, I get very worried 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 while I lived here that this gave me the impetus to say what I would like to say.
“The main problem today is not the policies of this country or of that country, the main problem of today is that there is not enough education.
“That there is not enough education for music, we have known for a long time. But now there is not enough education about who we are, about what is a human being, and how to relate with others of the same kind.
“That’s why I say it’s not political but it is of human concern, and if you look at the difficulties that the European continent is going through now you can see why that is: because of the lack of a common education.” He described the current wave of “nationalism in its very narrow sense” as something “very dangerous”. The 74-year-old was born in Argentina, moved to Israel as a child, lived in England during his marriage to Jacqueline du Pré, has Palestinian citizenship and is now resident in Berlin.
At the concert on Saturday, he conducted the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra. He said: “Our profession is the only one that is not national. No German musician will tell you, ‘I am a German musician and I will only play Brahms, Schumann and Beethoven’.” To illustrate his point, the orchestra played Land of Hope and Glory as an encore. His comments drew warm applause.
But they angered the critic, Norman Lebrecht, who wrote on his classical music blog: “The Proms are, and must be, politically neutral … the Proms podium is not a place for sermons. Using the Proms as a political platform risks damaging a national treasure. Barenboim should not have spoken.” He described it as “a very bad night for the reputation of the BBC Proms”.
A BBC spokesman said: “The Proms is not a political platform and all artists are booked on the basis of their musical excellence.”
Daniel Barenboim’s comments on BBC Proms were ‘not political’, he says, but ‘of human concern’