Daniel Barenboim – Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle (5)

Piano Sonata in E flat, Op.27/1 (Quasi una fantasia)
Piano Sonata in D, Op.10/3
Piano Sonata in E minor, Op.90
Piano Sonata in C, Op.53 (Waldstein)

Daniel Barenboim (piano)

Reviewed by: Mike Langhorne

Reviewed: 9 February, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Daniel Barenboim. ©Monika Rittershaus/EMI ClassicsThis fifth of eight recitals, in which Daniel Barenboim is playing all of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, found the pianist in stunning form. As he relates in the programme interview with Marshall Marcus, Barenboim does not play the cycle in opus-number order – though he sees that as a fascinating journey to undertake – but rather selects ‘early’, ‘middle’ and ‘late’ pieces to produces balanced concerts for anyone not attending the whole series.

In both the Sonata quasi una fantasia (its companion being the ‘Moonlight’) and the D major Sonata from Opus 10 Barenboim displayed a fine sense of spontaneity and, indeed, fantasy whilst being in command of overall structure. The bullish aspects of ‘early’ Beethoven were not ignored – some thunderous passages filled the Royal Festival Hall with deep resonance, the newly refurbished acoustic relaying well the range of dynamics, and the Largo e mesto movement of the D major work was remarkably exposed.

The E minor Sonata is often referred to as Schubertian. Barenboim revelled in the seemingly endless melodies. He ended the recital with the familiar ‘Waldstein’. Not that Barenboim treated it as such. It came up fresh as paint – the first movement beautifully modulated and taken at an ideal tempo that provided the ‘con brio’ without sacrificing articulation. The Adagio molto second movement, entitled ‘Introduzione’, seemed to emanate religious undertones, certainly in this rapt performance, whilst the finale crept in like a sunrise on a misty morn leading to joyous pealing of church-bells and the quicksilver and triumphant closing bars – the epitome indeed of music-making of “humanity, warmth and breadth of vision”. A marvellous evening.

  • Barenboim continues his Beethoven Sonata Cycle on 11, 15 and, at 3 p.m., 17 February

  • Southbank Centre

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