When it was announced last week that Barenboim and Harding would make appearances at this year's Festival di San Remo, we were baffled. And we weren't alone. Today La Repubblica published an interview with Barenboim, who will appear Thursday on the San Remo stage to play a Chopin waltz and nocturne while Harding goes live on Saturday to do what he does best. Which is that thing. That he does best.
San Remo organizers explained that Barenboim (and his Harding proxy) were invited to power-up cultural bragging rights and facilitate this year's theme of sobriety/centrality.
Barenboim explains that he accepted the invitation because he likes to break down barriers between classical music and pop, and cites successful concerts he's played for classically-caught-unawares audiences in the Middle East and Africa.
He says that he doesn't really know much pop music but learned it from his older son, who he says is a hip hop artist best known in Germany.
Young Barenboim met The Beatles and they quizzed him on Beethoven, which was as exciting as when he met Stravinsky in Rome in 1952.
Asked about the classical music crisis he said that it started when classical music stopped being taught in schools. The economic crisis has rendered art as a complete luxury, not a necessity. He thinks the key to saving classical music is instituting a radical change through investments in the younger generations.
He also talked about being a pianist vs. a conductor ("I'm not a pianist because I can simply be one, but because I must be one"); working at La Scala under the tough Italian financial crisis ("La Scala reflects the Latin temperaments of the country -- impatient, lively and unruly, but there's an enthusiasm that other opera houses don't have."); and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra ("We're legendary but we're not allowed to play in Palestine, Israel, Iran, Libya or Syria because the governments won't accept the spirit of the orchestra.")