Daniel Barenboim Music Quickens TimeDaniel Barenboim
Music Quickens Time

Verso, 2008




Daniel Barenboim’s Music Quickens Time takes its title from a phrase of The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and is a challenging and extensive book, testifying the musical and philanthropic commitment of the conductor and pianist and the propaedeutic and complementary function of the two ambits in his thought.

The development of the book is quite accurate and clear, at least in the first part, where the reader may notice that it tends to one and very precise end. The various themes are deepened by resorting to philosophical concepts inspired in particular (but not exclusively) by Spinoza, of whom Barenboim declares to be an avid reader. Barenboim’s purpose is to demonstrate that music can provide a model of society, though often it is easier to find in an orchestra than in the “outside world” a hierarchy in which all the voices have the same importance, the same responsibilities and the same rights, and that through music you can overcome mistrust and conflicts, as it is demonstrated by the experiment of the East-Western Divan Orchestra, founded by Barenboim himself together with writer Edward Said.

This part of the book is certainly the most stimulating, thanks to its set of sources and examples. However, the inspiration tends to fade in the second part of Music Quickens Time. This section, which is an appendix, is a collection of articles that should contribute to the deepening of themes already covered in the previous part, but, when compared with the brilliant and profound exposition just concluded, it does not fully satisfy the reader. It would have been better, in my opinion, if the book had been interrupted at the end of the first part, thus preserving its integrity, instead of adding some incoherent addictions, especially as they are texts already published before. I do not understand how it can help this work the chapter on Bach or the one about Mozart, not only because this composer was not among those most prominent in the first part, but mainly because the chapter is written in the classic interview scheme, that is, with questions and answers, creating an incomprehensible exception. The chapters on Wilhelm Furtwängler and Edward Said are definitely more appropriate, although the latter is really very short.

It would have been sufficient that Music Quickens Time had ended thirty pages before to be considered a truly exceptional book, but it remains nonetheless a very interesting text.