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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Daniel Barenboim Live from the Teatro Colón 2000
50th Anniversary of début recital

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91)
Piano Sonata in C major, K.330
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.57 ‘Appassionata’
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in D minor, Kk.9
Sonata in F minor, Kk.159
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Moment Musicaux, No.3 in F minor D.780
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-56)
Des Abends’ (from Fantasiestücke Op.12 No.1)
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-49)
Etude in F minor, Op.25 No.2
Nocturne in D flat major, Op.27 No.2
José RESTA

Bailacito

Alberto GINASTERA (1916-83)
Danza de la mozza donosa

Heitor VILLA-LOBOS (1887-1959)
Polichinelle

Recorded live at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, 19 August 2000
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 57416 2 [67’31]
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I still have Barenboim’s original set of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas on EMI, where a photograph of the dashing young virtuoso, then still in his twenties, adorned the booklet cover. Here he is on the cover of his very latest issue, now in distinguished middle age, in a recital to mark 50 years at the top of his profession. The wild audience reaction was predictable, given that this is his home city and he is one of its most famous sons. I’m sure, as an occasion it was unforgettable, but it is slightly uneven as a purely aural experience.

The two big sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven provide the real ‘meat’ in this recital, and Barenboim’s credentials in both composers are pretty impressive. But this playing is definitely that of the elder statesman than the young firebrand. The opening of the Mozart C major clearly demonstrates this. As luck would have it, a recital I reviewed recently by Evgeni Brakhman (one of the Martha Argerich presents series) opens with this very piece, and a comparison is interesting. It’s not just a question of the sprightlier tempo that Brakhman adopts, and which seems more fitting, but quicksilver passage-work is more cleanly articulated. Barenboim may be being a tad careful as it’s his opening item, but I sensed hesitancy, a slightly lumpy quality to some of the Alberti-style accompaniments and scalic runs. The brightly voiced piano takes on a hard edge even in mezzo-forte sections (such as 2’37 into the first movement), which gives dynamic contrast but is wearing on the ear. The slow movement certainly has the gravitas I missed in the Brakhman, with a nicely contrasting minor section, but the finale again misses that sense of abandon and spontaneity that the younger Barenboim would surely have provided. He seems more at home in the closing cantabile section, which is beautifully phrased, though the piano’s tone is again slightly troublesome.

It’s good to report more success in the ‘Appassionata’, always one of Barenboim’s favourites. Here we have a sense of discovery, of fantasy, that one sensed in those earlier EMI recordings. The long, dramatic first movement gets a reading of great power and dynamic flexibility. His subtle phrasing of the A flat second subject (2’00) contrasts well with the stormy hammering of the 5th Symphony motif at 5’22. His fingers also appear to have warmed up, as the difficult semiquaver passages in the finale are well brought off. This performance brings the house down, as well it might.

After these two works, the rest appear basically as a long string of encores, though certainly enjoyable. It’s good to hear this musician in Scarlatti, two tiny sonatas full of mood and temperament, though played a little safe by the side of, say, Argerich or Perahia. The Schubert and Schumann items are well despatched, and I was impressed by his Chopin. The Etude is beautifully done, tossed off with real virtuosic flair, as if something had finally awakened in him. The Nocturne (a substantial six-minute one) is also very fine. I always liked his full set of these wonderful pieces, recorded for DG in the ’80s, now released at budget price and very recommendable. His feeling for rubato and the singing line greatly impresses, and the reading has a melancholy introspection that is haunting.

The booklet, which is devoted to Barenboim and has nothing about the music, says that the final, Latin American items were ‘chosen spontaneously’. They are all short, punchy and predictably send the house into raptures. Recording quality is a touch close and bright, and seems to vary slightly, as if some microphone experimentation had taken place.

This will certainly be a must for Barenboim fans, though I’m not sure where it will fit otherwise. Everything is well enough done, occasionally outstanding, but I’m not sure there is anything that is new or special enough to warrant rushing out and spending full price on.

Tony Haywood


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