(J.C) BACH (1735-1782)
Sonata in B flat Op.17 No.6 [11:18]
Giovanni Battista PERGOLESI
Sonata in B flat [3:27]
Sonata in G [1:49]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Variations on ‘Ah, vous dirai-je maman’ K265 [6:42]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Capriccio Op.5 [6:10]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Intermezzo in C Op.119 No.3 [1:35]
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Sonatina Op.13 No.1 [6:07]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Seven Preludes from Op.34; No. 2 [0:46]: No.3 [1:56]: No.24 [1:13]: No.10 [1:58]: No.12 [1:09]: No.21 [0:37]: No.5 [0:33]
The story of the making of these recordings is told in Robert Matthew-Walker’s entertaining notes. It was Douglas Pudney of Philips who ensured that three 45rpm discs (remember them?) were made by the 13 year old Daniel Barenboim shortly after his London debut in 1956. First came Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart; then Kabalevsky and Shostakovich; finally on the third record, J.C. Bach and Pergolesi. They were issued on Pudney’s own account and without his checking first with Philips’ head office in Holland. Predictable wrath rained on Pudney’s head and the discs were withdrawn. Fewer than 500 of each EP were pressed. Over a dozen years later the three EPs were consolidated into an LP on Philips’ super-budget Wing label by another producer – and precisely the same thing happened again! So, these ill fated EPs and that LP which was immediately withdrawn have lived a strange half-life. Now, all these years later, with Barenboim a veteran of so many sessions, here are those wunderkind discs back in the catalogue – and not about to be withdrawn any time soon.
Guild’s notes have it right, though the track listing is awry in claiming the Sonata in B flat is by J.S. – it’s of course a typo for J.C. Bach. The recording is rather boomy and this blunts clarity of articulation, though not quite enough to efface evidence of the young Barenboim’s drama and brio, and buoyancy of rhythm. He shows nice sensitivity in the central Andante,
and an enviably developed technique in the Prestissimo
finale. He rightly brings a strikingly grand face to bear on Pergolesi’s Sonata in B flat, which is well contrasted with the much lighter and more mercurial Sonata in G – though it too sports some powerful chording.
The Mozart variations, on a tune the Anglo-Saxon world knows as ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ is relished with youthful wit and voicings. Mendelssohn’s rather stormy Capriccio Op.5 is played with requisite drama and Brahms’s Intermezzo in C from Op.119 is imbued with an engaging rhythmic bounce. Kabalevsky’s Sonatina had been already been recorded by Harriet Cohen and had settled into the repertoire by now. Barenboim’s approach to its deft harmonic writing is fine, and so too his response to its more Mussorgskian moments – those more sepulchral passages. Finally he plays seven of the Op.34 Shostakovich Preludes, of which the wistful No.10 is especially well characterised.
The original recording sessions weren’t wholly trouble free technically. There is a bit of distortion and of course there’s a bit of a boom. This disc represents a pleasurable snapshot of the young Barenboim in action.