I was asked by my daughter-in-laws sister if I wanted to photograph the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, as she was an executive with his record label. I said, “Wonderful send me all the details”. She came back to me and said, “Daniel would like you to take his portrait as he really liked the pictures you took of Anna Netrebko (more about her later) for The Sunday Times , Daniel was due to play at the Barbican so I arranged to meet him there.
I was aware of Daniels incredible work with the Western-Eastern Divan Orchestra that brought together young Arab and Israeli musicians. I found this incredibly touching and compassionate to bring people in conflict together through the healing power of music. He is such a revered conductor and pianist. He also acted as musical director for The Berlin State Opera, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and many more. He has been award numerous Grammy’s and is an honorary Knight Commander of The British Empire to name just a few of his many awards.
When I arrived at the Barbican we were shown back stage into a rehearsal room, with a grand piano in it. My assistant set up the lights and I wanted it lit in such a way that his head and hands where the only thing that was illuminated with the rest of his body in darkness. Once we’d set up the lights I noticed he had very shiny patent shoes which I also lit from the side to add some dynamic light to the pictures. The idea was to get the maestro and his piano to merge as one.
I showed Daniel a couple of polaroids and he just looked at me and said very simply “I like them, come with me and leave your cameras there”
I followed him down a passage way onto the Barbican stage at the centre of which was a beautiful Steinway piano. Daniel gestured me into the stalls of the Barbican theatre, which was completely empty. He said I must rehearse. He sat in complete silence for a moment in deep contemplation and then began to play Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat major.
As he finished he turned to me slowly and said “Any wrong notes? with a smile on his face.
After his solo performance for me I was so moved I could barely speak and I felt a tear trickling down my cheek. I was truly overwhelmed by his incredible talent. After thanking him and saying my bedazzled goodbye, I walked back to the rehearsal room. I sat down with Chopin still resonating in my mind as my assistants packed up the equipment. It was a truly memorable experience that I will never forget. As we drove back my assistant said to me, “You are very quiet Clive, are you alright?”. I said, “I am fine it was just so beautiful. A triumph”