Customer Review

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer delight for less than the price of a concert ticket, 15 Jun 2005
This review is from: Piano Concertos, The (Barenboim, Berliner Phil.) [9 CD+DVD] (Audio CD)
When I first saw this box on offer on Amazon, I could hardly believe the price - what's the catch? Are the performances that awful?
The Mozart Piano Concertos are amongst the most divine creations by the composer who gave us some of the most inspired music ever to hit this planet. They are immediately accessible, and yet the writing is intensely intricate and can be appreciated on several levels.
Many of the greatest pianists have recorded them all - Ashkenazy, Perahia, Anda to name a few - all superb and perfect performances. But to me and I suspect many others judging by their sales, it was always the young Barenboim who encapsulated the joy of these pieces. Barenboim was at his pianistic peak when he first recorded these concertos for EMI at Abbey Road in the late 60s and early seventies - well before all the sadness that was to enter his life with the illness of his wife Jacqueline Du Pre.
He plays these concertos with a big smile which you can actually hear and the English Chamber Orchestra are in total empathy and positively "sing" the accompaniment. Others, wiser than me have called these performances "mannered" and "idiosyncratic". Yet to me, they soar with joy and happiness - perhaps as Mozart would have played them himself.
So what of these new recordings? Well, they are certainly different, more serious in many ways but still with the sparkle of the old Barenboim. Some speeds have increased and some have slowed (listen to the 18th K456). The sound is obviously improved in comparison to the older EMI recordings, though not as much as you might think, and the Berlin Phil are of course wonderful, though the sheer exuberance of the English Chamber Orchestra is not there.
There is the added bonus of the double and triple concertos where Barenboim is joined by Sir Georg Solti (who is very much in charge) and Andras Schiff. This is playable as a DVD and I have to say that watching these geniuses in action is worth the cost of the entire box alone - sheer magic.
So, which to buy? Both Barenboim collections are surprisingly amongst the cheapest to buy - coming in at about a third of the cost of the Perahia. Well, if I were on a desert island, I would have to take the older EMI set - but for goodness sake buy them both!
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