van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) DVD1
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15 (1795, ?rev. 1800) [36:24]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 19 (before 1793, rev.
1794-5, 1798) [29:55]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 (?1800) [36:56] DVD2
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58 (1805-6) [34:46]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73, Emperor (1809)
Berlin/Daniel Barenboim (piano-conductor)
rec. Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum, 21-23 May 2007. DDD
Video Director: Michael Beyer.
Sound formats: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9.
Disc format: 2 DVD 9.
Region code: 0 (worldwide). EUROARTS 2056778 [114:03
strings’ opening to Concerto 1 is soft and stylish, the full
orchestra repeat grand but sunny and smiling. The piano’s entry
is urbane with humour but not skittishness. The second theme
(tr. 2 5:46) has an unassuming easy grace. The piano’s cool
descent from 7:16 with many modulations has a lovely musing
quality. In the development (8:23) the piano solo has more breadth
and contemplation. Everything is fluent yet sufficiently contrasted.
The unidentified cadenza emphasises the musing aspect. I compared
the DVD by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Kristyan Zimerman
(piano-conductor) recorded in 1991 (Deutsche Grammophon 0734269),
a performance without audience. His piano opening is friskier
and lyricism rather more muscular, his development more relaxed.
He plays Beethoven’s third cadenza which takes 4:47 against
Barenboim’s cadenza of 2:04; the latter has a more lyrical,
less exploratory nature. There’s more edge to the Staatskapelle
Berlin’s playing. Barenboim gives the second theme more space
and the development more probing quality. Throughout this review
I shall provide comparative actual performance rather than published
the slow movement Barenboim shows a measured warm appreciation
of the melody and the ornamentation as intrinsic to this.
The orchestra’s continuation of the melody has a contrasting
edge but the cantabile mellifluous clarinet solo a calming
role and you’re prepared for its extended later duet with
piano. Barenboim shows great delicacy at the return of the
theme. While Zimerman is stately and even, Barenboim has more
plasticity in the poetic colouring of phrases.
The scherzando element
of the rondo finale is displayed by Barenboim with a fitting
touch of irreverence. The first episode (tr. 4 30:10 in continuous
timing) is a little more relaxed and the piano’s softest of
passages before the return of the rondo like a welcome douche.
You see from 30:32 where the left hand with the cheekily wide
ranging melody crosses over the right. The second episode (31:58),
now sportive, now tranquil, is enjoyably unpredictable. Zimerman
is similarly lively and alert with his orchestra contrasting
verve and elegance. His second episode is lighter in tone. But
Barenboim is more bubbly and his orchestra’s sforzandi are
more lightly pointed.
the second concerto Barenboim brings a clear and charming
orchestral introduction, smiling first piano entry but boisterous
before a second theme (tr. 5 43:55) repeated by piano sunniest
of all. Here Zimerman has more verve than charm, the emphasis
on crispness and rhythmic propulsion. In Beethoven’s cadenza.
Barenboim’s approach, timing at 2:49 is more intellectual, analytical
and stark, Zimerman’s, at 2:34, more sonorous, dramatic and
the slow movement introduction Barenboim brings a solemn warmth,
sudden fire at the fortissimo then humane feeling to the first
violins’ expressive leap and extended descent, a practice
mirrored near the end (tr. 6 62:06) when the Barenboim provides
mannered of solos which is at the same time limpidly in accord
with its marking ‘con gran espressione’. Zimerman maintains
a stately smooth line and plays the closing solo with poise
and spaciousness, but with Barenboim’s slightly faster approach
you appreciate more readily the direction of the music and
thought processes behind it. And he gets absolute stillness
rondo finale is mettlesome hurly burly. In the first episode
(tr. 7 64:58) Barenboim’s piano has more vivacity than the
rather formal orchestra but that is won over to a cheerier
the graceful agility of the second episode (66:56) and more
mercurial third (68:28). Zimerman is more energetic and provides
more virtuoso dazzle. Barenboim, more laid back, finds more
light and shade of tone.
orchestral introduction to the third concerto finds Barenboim
the conductor clearly contrasting its smooth and stormy elements
while the second theme (tr. 8 75:05) gets particularly honeyed
treatment. Barenboim the pianist enters firmly but more memorable
is the rather sad elaboration of the latter part of the first
theme. His second theme has a kindly simple glow. What struck
me is his concern not with overall sweep and effect but the
progression of the argument, key to which is careful articulation
and engagement with the orchestra. This highlights the thoughtful
development (81:35). Zimerman for this and the remaining concertos
has Leonard Bernstein as conductor and in live performance
in 1989. Theirs is a more sweeping heroic approach of high
but the second theme is paler. Barenboim shows Beethoven’s cadenza
moves from power to something more visionary. A tender presentation
of the second theme turns into something more troubled and ultimately
fiery. Zimerman’s cadenza is faster and more dramatic, taking
3:03. Barenboim’s at 3:49 allows you more time to appreciate
the range and sonority.
opening solo sets the tone for the slow movement. It has poise
and breadth yet you can also see where the melody is going.
The orchestra provides comforting muted strings. Zimerman
is stately and still but arguably too static though Bernstein
a warm, rich orchestral lullaby. In the central section (tr.
9 95:27) Barenboim gives warm support to the expressive bassoon
and flute duet.
the rondo finale it’s the quieter aspects that are particularly
striking in Barenboim’s account, for instance the way the
second solo, as marked, slows down and quietens (from tr.
The quixotic changeability of the movement is clear but its
ultimate joy is equally anticipated, partly in the light treatment
of the first episode (102:55), partly the calmly rhapsodic
clarinet solo and exchange with the piano in the second episode
The fugue (106:19) is gently mysterious but the coda jubilant.
Zimerman and Bernstein are more extrovert, their first episode
more skipping, but their second less integral, more a holiday.
brings clear, classical articulation to the fourth concerto.
The piano solo opening is smooth and fluent, less pointed
than Zimerman’s, the orchestral response gentle, less emotive than
Bernstein’s, the second theme (DVD 2 tr. 2 2:31) probing. Barenboim’s
third theme (3:21), in effect a triumphant completion of the
second, is suitably more earnest though it doesn’t flower as
much as Bernstein’s. Warmth arrives with Barenboim’s strings
and the fourth theme (6:03). Barenboim the pianist, where Zimerman
is cooler, achieves a lovely still presentation just after
the beginning of the development (from 9:13). Both pianists
play Beethoven’s longer cadenza. Barenboim begins resolutely
but becomes more magical, with the calmest presentation of the
fourth theme, where Zimerman is lighter, and with Barenboim
the first theme gradually becomes more insistent and solemn
against the third which nevertheless wins out. Barenboim’s
coda has the greater sense of becalming.
the slow movement the orchestral Furies are stern and gruff,
Barenboim’s piano Orpheus, encased in his own world, has an
inward serenity. But as the Furies recede the piano world
becomes more present and shows its serenity has been attained
suffering. Bernstein’s Furies are biting enough, Zimerman’s
Orpheus has a drawn out sorrow but Barenboim’s somewhat more
flowing tempo is more eloquent.
is much in evidence in Barenboim’s finale in the main contrasting
theme (tr. 4 27:23). Barenboim gives particular attention to
the lyrical aspects of Beethoven’s cadenza. Zimerman is more
fiery here but Barenboim has rhythmic verve, if not Zimerman’s
dazzle, and sufficient athletic edge in the central section.
the fifth concerto again Barenboim is at his best in the quieter
moments, even from the expressive treatment these receive
in his opening flourishes. The opening orchestral theme is
and resolute but the second theme (tr. 5 41:11) more tellingly
delicate in its premiere in the minor on violins and roseate
in its repeat in the major on the horns. Barenboim provides
a majestic opening solo of the first theme and deliciously
soft version of the second. The orchestra transforms the latter
a gruff march with an increasing swagger. But this doesn’t have
the energy or excitement of Barenboim’s solo from 45:58 in contrary
motion: as the right hand descends, the left ascends and vice
versa. Woodwind soloists’ presentation of the first theme in
the minor in the development from 48:58 is also eloquent. There’s
more electricity in Zimerman and Bernstein’s account, more animation
in the first theme, but the second is less rosy and memorable
the slow movement Barenboim pays more attention to the latter
part of the marking Adagio un poco mosso than Bernstein
and Zimerman. This gives the introduction more warmth but also
makes clearer the shading that gives it a humane, dramatic dimension.
Zimerman’s sense of span is impressive but Barenboim’s more
flowing tempo and limpid playing makes the architecture more
relaxed. Barenboim smoothly embroiders the theme in the first
variation (tr. 6 64:30) and then creamily backs the flute, clarinet
and bassoon in the second variation (65:49), all are more emotively
involved than the pristine calm of Zimerman and the VPO players.
twice tries out the rondo finale theme musingly enough then
smartly and unselfconsciously launches into it heartily. The
orchestral repeat is sprightly and exuberant with snappy semiquavers.
The main contrasting theme (tr. 7 69:24) finds the piano genially
lyrical but moving freely forward. Other notable moments are
the nimbly, sketchily applied mock fugue (70:55), Barenboim’s
silky glide in the pp appearance of the rondo theme in
A flat (72:05) and the stimulating strings’ presentation of
it in fast repeated semiquavers. Bernstein gets a little more
drive and sheer jubilation in the orchestral passages; Zimerman
shows panache and some relaxation, but without quite Barenboim’s
nuance in phrasing and delicacy of touch.
approach is consistent. He realizes the poetic aspects wonderfully
but the powerhouse ones are arguably understated, perhaps owing
to the piano-conductor role. In these live performances from
the Ruhr Piano Festival there are brief untidy moments and the
piano sometimes takes quite a hammering. But you do witness
a performance being created with many looks of rediscovery on
Barenboim’s face along the way, often relishing a particular
turn of harmony. This is a real gain.
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