Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim – Beethoven & Schoenberg (2)

Verklärte Nacht [Revised Version, 1943]
Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat, Op.73 (Emperor)

Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim (piano)

Reviewed by: Alex Verney-Elliott

Reviewed: 31 January, 2010
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Conducting to a sold-out Royal Festival Hall, Daniel Barenboim and the strings of Staatskapelle Berlin gave an incandescent performance of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) with playing of luminous depth and wide expressive range revealing spellbinding tone, colour and weight that is not always to be heard in London and including very hushed playing that retained great presence. Barenboim conducted with swooping expressive gestures enticing his players to give their all yet always sounding intimate and also chamber-like (the original instrumentation of this work is for string sextet), holding the score together as a seamless arching whole, the music flowing organically and gracefully along; a memorable and moving account.

In Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ Concerto, Barenboim showed signs of fatigue and appeared to be on autopilot (and had already given a performance for BBC4 cameras). The still-constricted RFH acoustic made some notes seem smudged as well as brittle and often harsh. Come the last movement, Barenboim was playing in a rather fumbled and erratic manner and using superficial flourishes. He had difficulty holding the work together (whilst simultaneously playing the piano) and was not able to truly integrate with the orchestra.

  • Concert recorded by BBC Radio 3
  • RFH Barenboim series continues on February 1 & 2

  • Southbank Centre

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