This collection of interviews, articles and essays by the veteran musician is superficially a rather random selection. There are curt, intelligent but slight discussions of Boulez, Mozart and Schumann, meditations on the philosophy of music, and political pieces on Israel-Palestine. Yet, despite some repetition and disjointedness, this is a highly worthwhile book.
Barenboim’s writing is lucid and clear, with a cantankerousness that thankfully intrudes when the train of thought threatens to become too world-saving. This comes in useful in what will be the book’s more controversial element – his sharply sane, if despairing, discussions of two countries from which he holds a passport – Israel and Palestine. The focus regularly returns to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, his and Edward Said’s project of musical Middle Eastern unity. By contrast, he argues, official Israeli society has long since abandoned its collectivist roots for brutal revanchism.
The title refers to Barenboim’s claim – sometimes dismissed as naivety – that music, in its interconnectedness, harmony, discipline and individualism, is a model for a more equal, accepting (not “tolerant”, a word he disdains) society. Doubtless he would still be the conductor in Utopia.