…Another justification, of course, is the obvious enthusiasm of the young players as they make their way through a curtain-raising Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, with its collection of diverse but harmonious instrumental elements, and through Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, with its durable resonances of hope amid warfare. This concert was recorded live in Ramallah in August 2005, under heavy guard. The logistical preparations of the concert, Barenboim says, could fill a book. But maybe that's a book that should be written, for the bottom line is that the concert took place and ended with an explosion of applause…
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony. Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.
This 6-CD set captures Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim in some of their most significant recordings together and features the astonishingly beautiful and highly regarded lieder of Hugo Wolf.
The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
Maxim Vengerov now confronts - and conquers - one of the supreme challenges all great violinists must face: The Brahms violin concerto. This beautiful, virtuosic work has defined careers from Heifetz to Perlman. Vengerov's turn has come, and his rich, burnished tone and impassioned phrasing make this one of the standout concerto CDs of the year. The soulful partnership of Vengerov and Barenboim (one of his most important mentors) is also a strong selling point.
Many listeners who know Beethoven's symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas, or quartets are unfamiliar with his five sonatas for cello and piano. But this genre finds Beethoven at the top of his form. Even though Beethoven composed only five of these works, he wrote them during each of his major styles, from the early works of opus 5, to the great middle-period work, opus 69, and to the final two sonatas of opus 102, similar in style to the late piano sonatas and quartets. Only the symphonies, string quartets, piano sonatas, and the five cello sonatas show Beethoven in all three of his "manners" of composition. The cello sonatas show Beethoven at his best in each period.