Liszt • Wagner
Recorded live in Essen in June 2011, this DVD replicates the Liszt-only Deutsche Grammophon CD that I reviewed in this magazine’s January 2012 issue. On this DVD we also have the two Wagner items that fleshed out the programme. Wagner’s Faust Overture and Siegfried Idyll now contribute to a convincingly devised double portrait of these two 19th-century composer-titans and comrades-in-arms.
Barenboim’s approach to both concertos deals in the monumental rather than in quicksilver Romantic scintillation. The Second Concerto’s broader idiom duly comes off best, with moments of impressive power. The two Wagner items spotlight this fine orchestra: there’s memorably beautiful playing in the Siegfried Idyll, while Boulez sets up a musical trajectory that’s exquisitely paced and shaped.
The DVD visuals are straight and effective. There’s the occasional missed opportunity: why not show the rare bass tuba solo that opens the Faust Overture, rather than the first of countless shots of Boulez on the podium? But some nice moments are caught too – the fleeting half-smiles that the players can’t keep from their faces during the unfolding loveliness of Siegfried Idyll, and the unmistakable wink towards the first violins that Barenboim finds room for, while sustaining the long two-handed trill towards the end of Liszt’s First Concerto. He also contributes two thoughtfully played encores.