WORKS: Piano Concertos
PERFORMER: Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2056778
These performances from the 2007 Ruhr Piano Festival celebrate Daniel Barenboim’s lifetime association with Beethoven’s piano concertos, his first complete cycle having been recorded by EMI back in 1967.
It’s a testament to his continued involvement with this repertory that the performances remain so urgent and fresh. Although the fingers are not quite as supple as they were, the harmonic delineation remains supremely insightful with wonderfully expressive melodic lines in the slow movements.
There are occasional moments, particularly in the Finales of the Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos, where there is an unwarranted heaviness of touch; possibly this is due to the added responsibilities of conducting from the keyboard, but there’s no doubt that the Berlin Staatskapelle respond to Barenboim’s every nuance like true chamber musicians, and the ensemble is extremely impressive.
With such familiar music one is bound to have caveats about certain facets of the interpretation: for example the surprisingly unatmospheric opening to the Fourth and the lack of humour in the feisty Rondos of Concertos Nos 1 and 2. But in almost every other respect, this remains a marvellous document.
The visual presentation is free of gimmickry and captures all the excitement of a live event. Much camera work is on Barenboim’s hands, but one is also able to observe the very different and imaginative ways he manages to combine the dual roles of playing and directing. Erik Levi