Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata)
Étude in F minor, Op.25/2
Nocturne in D flat, Op.27/2
Danzas argentinas, Op.2 Danza de la moza donosa
Sonata in C, K330
Sonatas in D minor (Kk 9) & C (Kk 159)
Moment musicaux, D780 No.3 in F minor
Fantasiestücke, Op.12 Des Abends (No.1)
Prole do bebê Polichinelle (Book 1)
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Recorded live on 19 August 2000 at Teatro Colón, Buenos Aries
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2002
CD No: EMI 5 57416 2
If Daniel Barenboim’s interpretations (as both pianist and conductor) can seem not fully-formed at times, or that he hasn’t quite got his message across to an orchestra, or his never-guaranteed technique can usurp his recitals, then such (anticipated) reservations are swept aside here. Writing this in the wake of a recent London recital that I missed and which seems to have been rather special, I find this recorded recital to be very fine – and rarely out of my CD player.
Yet I am not likely to forget Barenboim’s London concert of 24 February this year (2002), which I decided not to formally review given his wayward Beethoven and aggressive Albéniz; my own reaction fuelled by the adulatory audience’s response to inadequate playing. Yet he concluded that matinee appearance with magical accounts of two Scarlatti sonatas, which beguiled the ear as much as the recital proper had infuriated. I’m delighted that two are included here (albeit not necessarily the same two!) for they are played with exceptional sensitivity and imagination. A whole CD of Scarlatti would be nice! The Mozart is more masculine than feminine, living rather than precious – and this is so welcome. Barenboim’s chiselled phrasing and his sharing of unexpected confidences give this performance clarity and rich expression that I find particularly entrancing.
Barenboim’s rough-hewn Beethoven is markedly dramatic and committed. There are times, as throughout this recital, when he can over-hit notes (especially in the treble). While this is regrettable elsewhere, in Beethoven such exhaustive communication is more viable. In any case, Barenboim is as expressive as he is voluble – there are here a range of touches, dynamics and effects that report his intensity and deliberation in the most favourable light.
The rest of the CD is effectively devoted to encores. The Schubert is maybe too laconic, a straight-man out for a few unexpected laughs; the Schumann though is wonderfully poetic, not least in the care with which Barenboim distils Schumann’s ornamentation. The Chopin study seems to re-claim youth, a reminder of Barenboim’s prodigy, while the Nocturne is moonlit, Barenboim relishing harmonic shifts as much as the silken outpouring of melody.
The trio of South American trifles includes the smile-inducing Bailecito, teasingly rendered here and the languorous Ginastera (more than a suggestion of Scott Joplin!). The finger-breaking Villa-Lobos, which Barenboim brings off with fluid rapidity, ends the CD with fireworks.
The audience listens throughout with rapt attention and then explodes into applause (nicely tailored for repeated listening). The recording is vivid and tangible and conveys the sense of a great occasion – the 50th-anniversary (to the day) of seven-year-old Barenboim’s professional debut. The sense of struggle and vindication that informs the final bars of the ’Appassionata’ may not achieve the transcendentalism that Richter was capable of, but the fury Barenboim unleashes to reach the finishing post is achieved from the music itself and not as an act of showmanship. This CD, and his recent appearance with Celibidache (also EMI), reminds that Barenboim is first and only a musician, one who searches. If he doesn’t always find, he has struck gold here.