Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim has angered the Israeli government by saying he will take his Berlin orchestra to play in Iran.
Barenboim, 72, is one of the world’s best known music conductors, and had planned to play in Tehran in early September, with the backing of the German government, but it was postponed amid angry protests from senior figures in Jerusalem.
Mark Regev, who speaks for the Israeli prime minister, said: “Barenboim has taken an anti-Israel stance and he slanders Israel while using culture as leverage in order to state his political opinions against the State of Israel. This is a mistake by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”
However, a German government spokesman said: “German foreign minister Steinmeier has taken on the patronage of this concert and supports Daniel Barenboim’s commitment to make music accessible to people beyond any national, religious or ethnic boundaries.”
Before the Islamic Revolution, and for a limited time after, Iran attracted a range of world-renowned musicians, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin, but cultural exchanges were sidelined under the hard-line leadership of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since winning an election last year, however, President Rouhani has sought to reintroduce international visits.