Liszt: Barenboim live at La Scala: Tre sonetti del Petrarca; ‘St François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux’; ‘Après une lecture du Dante’; Verdi transcriptions

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt
WORKS: Barenboim live at La Scala: Tre sonetti del Petrarca; ‘St François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux’; ‘Après une lecture du Dante’; Verdi transcriptions
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Warner 2564 69785-2
Daniel Barenboim has generally played Liszt insightfully, intensely, and with an interest in finding the character of the music that lies beyond the actual notes; despite a few awkward moments, this recently recorded live recital from the Teatro alla Scala, featuring a healthy dose of Liszt’s music on Italian subjects, finds him in representative form. Although stillness and delicacy lie well within Barenboim’s scope(‘St Francis of Assisi Preaching to the Birds’ is a highly evocative demonstration of this capability), his approach to Liszt frequently results in forceful and rhapsodic playing. Much as I appreciate his energy and inquisitive spirit in this music, I tend to find Barenboim’s palette of colour to be unlovely and monochromatic, and in this live setting he sometimes batters the piano in a practically pugilistic way (notably at climaxes in the Dante Sonata). The spiritual and erotic overtones lurking in this >music do not invariably reveal themselves in the presence of Barenboim’s brusqueness, and he plays the three Verdi operatic transcriptions for dazzling virtuosic effect rather than seeking out the grand lyricism these tunes have so often embodied on this very stage. The recorded sound is penetrating rather than full, exaggerating the clangourous dimension of Barenboim’s pianism.

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