Israeli-Argentine conductor Barenboim made Berlin citizen of honor

Mayor pays tribute to 80-year-old’s musical talent, commitment to Israeli and Palestinian communication; he recently ended 3-decade tenure as musical director of Berlin State Opera

Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim arrives for a ceremony to award him honorary citizenship of the German capital in Berlin, Germany, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim arrives for a ceremony to award him honorary citizenship of the German capital in Berlin, Germany, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — Daniel Barenboim was made a citizen of honor of Berlin on Friday, months after he ended his three-decade tenure as the general musical director of the Berlin State Opera for health reasons.

Mayor Franziska Giffey paid tribute to Barenboim’s musical talent and his commitment to communication between Israelis and Palestinians in a ceremony at city hall.

Giffey said that Barenboim “demonstrates incomparable mastery both at the grand piano and at the conductor’s stand,” German news agency dpa reported. She told him that “as an artist and as a person, you are truly a figure of the century.”

Barenboim, 80, was born in Argentina and raised there and in Israel.

He has had long associations with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and with the Berlin State Opera, or Staatsoper, which he led from 1992 until early this year.

He also co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which united musicians from Israel and the Arab world.

Giving up the Berlin post in January, he said that his health had worsened significantly over the past year and he could “no longer deliver the performance that is rightly demanded of a general music director.” But he has made clear that he’s determined to keep conducting as much as possible, saying in February that he “will take it day by day.”

Barenboim is Berlin’s 123rd citizen of honor, joining a list that includes actress and singer Marlene Dietrich and post-World War II West Germany’s first leader, Konrad Adenauer.

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