THESSALONIKI – World renowned pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim was awarded the Empress Theophano Prize at a ceremony in Thessaloniki on Tuesday evening, with his son receiving the prize on his behalf, for his contribution to the mutual understanding between peoples through art.
Barenboim, 79, was not able to attend for health reasons, and his award was picked up by his son Michael.
The award ceremony was held in the Rotunda in the presence of Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and other Greek state and local officials. President Emeritus of the European Council and Chairman of the Advisory Council at the Empress Theophano Foundation, Herman Van Rompuy, was also there.
President Sakellaropoulou hailed the maestro “as an outstanding pianist and a great humanitarian, a brave intellectual and a deeply democratic citizen” who has performed in Greece as well. She added that Daniel Barenboim “has never hesitated to express particularly courageous views,” including the performance of Wagner’s music in Israel, “believing that cultural life cannot be ruled by taboos and restrictions that oppose the critical understanding of art works and that of their creators.”
He has also fought the pervasive presence of antisemitism in the cultural policy of Germany, she said, expressed displeasure at Israel’s expansionist activity, and performed at the West Bank’s BirZeit University – the first Israeli to do so – following the proposal of his friend Edward Said.
Receiving the prize for his father, Michael Barenboim expressed the hope that the prize “inspires all of us who are here today to find the courage and vision necessary to ensure that dialog and understanding will always prevail over mean-spiritedness and superstitions.”