Barenboim asks for Euro-unity at Proms

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Anita Singh ARTS AND EN­TER­TAIN­MENT EDITOR

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’

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