From Wagner to Janis Joplin, Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber's Musical Muses

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

During Lionel Barber’s tenure as editor of the Financial Times, the paper has won numerous awards including the coveted Newspaper of the Year citation. Beyond running the paper, he has personally interviewed many world leaders, including president Barack Obama, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, and was called upon to brief president George W. Bush on European affairs in preparation for the president’s inaugural trip to Europe.

But side-by-side with his passion for journalism is his passion for music. In this interview with host Gilbert Kaplan, Barber reveals:

-- How he first learned of Wagner as a child from German au pairs at home (Rheingold was the first opera he ever heard).

-- He never studied music, preferring cricket and rugby (“It was not seen as particularly manly to be studying music in the 60s”).

-- Although he describes himself as a romantic, in general his response to music is more intellectual.

-- In his musical fantasy he’d be a conductor of Wagner on the podium at the Bayreuth Festival.

-- When he lived in America, if he needed “a shot in the arm,” he’d listen to Janis Joplin.

-- If something went wrong in his life he turned to Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto for consolation.


Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold [excerpt]. Vienna Philharmonic. Sir Georg Solti. Decca 455 556.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor. Second movement [excerpt]. Richard Goode, piano. Elektra/nonesuch 979211.

Giuseppe Verdi: Macbeth, “Ah, la paterna mano” from Act IV, Scene I. Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala. Claudio Abbado. Placido Domingo. DG 449732.

Franz Schubert: Fantasy for Piano in C Major, “Wanderer-Fantasie” [excerpt]. Maurizio Pollini, piano. DG 4474512.

Kris Kristofferson / Fred Foster: Me and Bobby McGee. Janis Joplin. Columbia C2K 87131.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major. First movement [excerpt]. English Chamber Orchestra. Daniel Barenboim, conductor and pianist. EMI 572930.

Comments [2]


When Lionel Barber says that “Me and Bobby McGee” is "by" Janis Joplin he surely is referring to who is performing the work, not who composed it. He was certainly aware of Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster as they are listed in his playlist.

"Mad About Music"

Feb. 22 2012 01:34 PM

would be nice if someone informed Mr. Barber that Janis Joplin did not write the song. he talks about the feelings and vastness evoked by the lyrics and melody. those would be due to Kristofferson and Foster.

Feb. 05 2012 09:44 PM

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