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: EuroArts 2056748 (NTSC system; DD 5.1, dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Seeing Daniel Barenboim in action clarifies one’s perception of what’s heard on the CD version of this recital (reviewed p87 in this issue). The pianist’s poetic and technically refined playing in the delicatepassages of ‘St Francis of Assisi Preaching to the Birds,’ revealed through deft camera work, remains the highlight of this recital. The three Petrarch sonnets also have quiet moments, but neither Barenboim’s sometimes spiky pianism nor his view of Liszt is of the sort that maximizes their erotic lyricism. In the Dante Sonata, the substantial core of this recital, numerous strenuous passages cost Barenboim visible effort; and even if his attempts to create and exploit a large dynamic range have some effective expressive results, his tone too often emerges as brittle, twangy, and prickly (not only at loud dynamic levels). One wonders whether either the piano or the recording is partly to blame for the shallow brightness that too often afflicts Barenboim’s sonority in this recital. The approach taken in the Verdi transcriptions is sometimes ruminative but generally features flashy brilliance and preciousness in music that often cries out for the dignity of exalted lyricism. This concert is visually attractive and Barenboim’s serious visual demeanour commands attention, but workmanlike rather than transcendental pianism limits the sensual possibilities of the music.