The news that the German government are to fund the maestro to the tune of 20 million euros comes just a few days before his 70th birthday. But he can't blow it all on ping pong and cigars.
Instead, the cash, spread over four years, will support the activities of Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. It's earmarked for the newly established Barenboim-Said-Akademie in Berlin, which aims to continue and extend the work of WEDO by offering musical training for up to 60 students from the Arab world.
The Academy, like Barenboim himself, is based in Berlin's Staatsoper, currently undergoing a €240m renovation. The grant will help create teaching and practice rooms. Also planned are a concert/rehearsal hall designed by Frank Gehry, who is providing his services pro bono, and a new chamber music hall which can be used by other artists when the Academy don't need it.
The cash injection is timely. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's current principal funder, the Andalusian Regional Government, is just as empty-pocketed as the rest of Spain. The German government in contrast have just increased next year's cultural budget by 8% to a total of 1.28 billion euros.