It was a little over a year ago that Daniel Barenboim announced that he would be stepping down as music director of the Staatsoper Berlin after a thirty-year tenure that completely revitalized that organization.
“Unfortunately, the state of my health has worsened considerably over the past year,” Barenboim said in a statement in October 2022. “I can no longer achieve the level of performance that is rightly required of a general music director. As a result, I ask for your understanding that I will be giving up this role as from January 31, 2023.”
There had been major cancellations including a new Wagner “Ring” cycle and concert celebrations that would have celebrated Barenboim’s eightieth birthday in November 2022.
A year later, at eighty-one, Barenboim was trying to come back. Frail from an unspecified neurological condition, the legendary conductor and pianist was planning to make a rare return to Chicago—where he was music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1991-2006—with the Staatskappelle Berlin, the orchestra of the Staatsoper Berlin, with the music of Brahms.
Brahms is a composer with whom Barenboim has always had a special affinity. His Chicago performances of Brahms symphonies were amongst the finest he gave during a CSO music directorship that was often controversial and divisive. The opportunity to experience him conducting the Brahms First and Third Symphonies with an orchestra he led for twice as long as he led the CSO would have been rare and welcome.
Sadly, at press time, Daniel Barenboim withdrew from the Staatskapelle Berlin’s North American tour due to health reasons. Czech conductor Jakub Hruša has agreed to lead the Staatskapelle Berlin in its Symphony Center Presents performance on November 28. Hruša, who is in Chicago conducting performances of “Jenufa” at Lyric Opera, will make his Staatskapelle Berlin podium debut leading the all-Brahms program as previously announced featuring the composer’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3. “It is with great regret that I need to withdraw from the Staatskapelle Berlin’s upcoming concert tour to Canada and the United States,” says Barenboim in a statement. “I was very much looking forward to returning to this tour but my health simply does not allow me to undertake the strenuous transatlantic travel and the many domestic trips required for this tour. I am thankful for everyone’s understanding and good wishes.”
Staatskapelle Berlin at Symphony Center, 220 South Michigan, November 28 at 7:30pm. Tickets $49-$350 here.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: email@example.com