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Star conductor Barenboim hits back after criticisms

2 min

Berlin (AFP)

World renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim has hit back at critics after coming under fire in several reports which quoted members of his Berlin orchestra complaining about his "temperamental" directing style.

"Why did the accusations not emerge previously, but only now?" he asked.

"It's not as if I was always a good person but suddenly became so bad," he told national news agency DPA in an interview on Thursday.

"In my view, it's linked to a campaign to prevent me from staying on in Berlin," he said.

Although Barenboim has been named chief conductor for life at the Staatskapelle orchestra, he is currently in negotiations with Berlin city authorities to extend his contract as general musical director of the capital's flagship opera house, the Staatsoper.

Reports had initially quoted anonymous musicians complaining about Barenboim's directing style.

But this week, some of his critics have come out to identify themselves.

A former member of the Staatsoper, Willi Hilgers told classical music broadcaster BR Klassik that while he respected the Israeli-Argentinian conductor as "one of the greatest musicians on this planet", it was not always easy being part of his team.

"In the last two years, I had to take anti-depressants to be able to play again," said the solo-timpanist, who claimed he felt harassed by Barenboim under whom he played for 16 years.

Another musician, Martin Reinhardt, who played under Barenboim at the Staatskapelle in Berlin for 13 years, said he started to "always feel afraid about going to work."

"Scared of his temperament. Sometimes he was very temperamental, it can come from nothing, sudden mood change, or he sometimes blasts someone with little reason," Reinhardt told the broadcaster.

One of the most recognised names in classical music today, Barenboim is much feted for his work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together talented young Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

There are few other musicians alive today with the same knowledge and breadth of repertoire.

The former chief conductor of the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Rattle, once said that Barenboim "IS music" itself.

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