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Barenboim for All - the Concertos,
This review is from: Beethoven for All - The Piano Concertos (Audio CD)
A combination of delicacy and dynamism is what makes Barenboim's performances of the Piano Concertos even more rewarding than his recent recording of the symphonies. Here, rather than being grounded or maintaining too close a focus on the score, he moves seamlessly between corporate joy and personal communication. He may chose only one colour, but will then reveal all its individual hues (notably in the adamant trills of the 1st Concerto). Such detail, including a Rossini-like gradation of dynamic, delivers the music's sense of purpose.
Unlike in the WEDO symphonies, Barenboim allows the Staatskapelle Berlin to enjoy less refined moments. There's an appealing coarseness to the opening of the 2nd Piano Concerto, matching Barenboim's own sense of improvised exploration in the cadenzas. And, unlike the symphonies, they tap the more unbridled joys of Beethoven's world.
The slow intensification of tone in the 4th Concerto provides a particularly thrilling experience. It starts with Barenboim's nigh-passive chords and is followed by cajoling tones from the orchestra. They appear almost annoyed in the Andante (though the piano remains impervious), before the performance ends with a playful-cum-reckless rendition finale. The emotional and musical rewards are immense. And the abandon in 4th comes to the fore even more clearly in the finale of the 'Emperor', where Barenboim's breadth of sound provides steel to that wit.
Right across these works, Barenboim demonstrates an inimitable understanding of how to fulfil the finale bar while delivering the first. But it's when seated at the piano that his Beethoven spans its widest range, providing humour, rhetoric and determination. The symphonies are thoroughbred performances, which cannot disappoint but fall just short of Chailly's dynamic approach (among recent additions to a vast discography). Although the WEDO provides an expansive sound, it ultimately forms a barrier to the lighter more humours passages within the cycle. The piano concertos, on the other hand, are pure gold and indicative of the joys that doubtless lie ahead in Barenboim's recordings of the Piano Sonatas.