Daniel Barenboim newest recipient of American Liszt Society Medal!

As part of the opening ceremonies at the 50th anniversary festival of the American Liszt Society, the late ALS President Thomas Mastroianni presented Maestro Daniel Barenboim with the Medal of the American Liszt Society.

"Daniel Barenboim is one of the leading musicians of our time. One must never use such language lightly, lest one devalue it. In the case of Maestro Barenboim, however, it is no more than the simple truth. Pianist, conductor, teacher, and author, his multi-faceted career places him in a similar category to that of Franz Liszt, whose music he has done so much to promote over a rich lifetime of music-making – over half a century in fact.

Maestro Barenboim understands that celebrity is pointless unless it is put to good use. His West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, comprised mainly of Israeli and Arab musicians, was created in 1999, in cooperation with his colleague, Palestinian-born scholar and author Edward Said, for the purpose of showing that it is possible for people from this war-torn region to learn to understand and respect one another's point of view. The orchestra is based in Seville, near enough both to Israel and Palestine to bring concerts to their respective peoples. Daniel Barenboim held the first rehearsals in Weimar, which is not only the city of Goethe (whose collection of poems The West-Eastern Divan gave the orchestra its name), but is also the spiritual home of Franz Liszt and a world center for Liszt scholarship.

"Maestro Barenboim's efforts to use music for the improvement of society place him in a direct line of descent from Franz Liszt, whose watchword 'Genie oblige!' ('Genius carries obligations!') was based on the ethical idea that being gifted by Providence with musical talent imposed on one a special duty to give something back. This idea of giving something back surely finds its modern equivalent in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, as we witness these young musicians placing their talents in the service of something higher than self-interest. Maestro Barenboim may not recall Alfred Cortot's beautiful aphorism, 'Music forces Mankind to confront its Nobility,' but it is a phrase that readily springs to mind as we observe his work with this orchestra.

"Daniel Barenboim's Liszt recitals are legendary and have attracted much attention. We think especially of the evenings he has devoted to Liszt's operatic paraphrases in such venues as the Royal Opera House (London) and La Scala Opera House (Milan), perfect venues for such repertoire, as Liszt himself realized when he became the first pianist to give a solo recital at La Scala as far back as 1837. As an interpreter of Liszt's music Barenboim has few peers. His persuasive interpretations are notable for their sheer musicality, a refreshing change in an age which so often sees in Liszt little more than a flamboyant virtuoso offering opportunities for physical display. It only remains to add that both in his radio and his television interviews Barenboim continues to argue eloquently for a proper recognition of Liszt's unique place in musical history.

It is a distinct privilege and a high honor to present Daniel Barenboim with the Medal of the American Liszt Society in the year 2014 – a year that also happens to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Society."

To view a recorded message from Maestro Barenboim in response to the award, please click here. First posted October 2, 2014.