After the UK, it is now the French music press which is raving on Barenboim's Beethoven - Schoenberg cycle. One of these is the French "Le Monde". Yet in January 1998, Barenboim should have been appointed the musical director of the Bastille Opera yet could not agree with the administrative director, Pierre Bergé. Barenboim asked for arbitration at the French authorities who, for reasons that have not been made really completely open gave reason to Bergé. (Bergé has been a loyal supporter and financial backer of former Président François Mitterand among others activities).
About the same time, French media which is rumored to take their cues from the French government, right or left, started a series of articles criticising the work that Barenboim had done as musical director of the Orchestre de Paris. The most aggressive one was Le Monde, which if I remember well, hinted at the conductor's lack of abilities to conduct Opéra as well as to hold an orchestra together. We all know what Barenboim has since accomplished in the pit in places like Berlin, Bayreuth, Milan, ... We also know of the artistic struggles the Bastille suffered right after ...
This being said, on the 14th of January, the evening Barenboim's sacking of Bastille was announced, he was conducting a concert performance of Act 2 of Tristan with Behrens, Lakes, Meier and Tomlinson. I was there and remember the performance which was stunning. The audience applauded the soloists as they arrived on stage but gave a special welcome to Barenboim. He clearly was not expecting this gesture and probably because of this and also because of the insight he has always displayed for this work, he gave a really special performance.
After all what happened, Barenboim could have had many reasons to severe all relations with France which he did not. He has not spoken about this topic but I am convinced that this January 14 performance influenced him.
When the Divan Orchestra played in Paris in 2006, Paris's intelligencia was everywhere to be seen all smiling and applaudng , including the flamboyant Culture Minister of the time of Barenboim's firing. Honestly, will they ever admit that they have probably sacked a great musician who may even one day receive the Peace Nobel Prize ?