The old model for creating a hit classical recording – big-name soloist plus big-name conductor in major repertory work – is not so common anymore, but this live Brahms recording from the Staatskapelle Berlin under Venezuela's Gustavo Dudamel, with Argentine-Israeli-Palestinian-Spanish pianist Daniel Barenboim as soloist, shows that there's life in the concept yet. One could point to the virtues of pianist and conductor separately: it's a rare septuagenarian who can combine power and clear articulation of detail the way Barenboim does, and Dudamel builds a vast sweep in, especially, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15. But it's the way that the two work together that really makes news. Chalk it up to shared South American heritage or to whatever the listener wants, but the way the orchestra and piano define separate spheres and work them together is extraordinary. Again, it is in the Piano Concerto No. 1 and its Beethovenian drama that their mutual understanding is most evident, but there is a sense of great variety powerfully unified throughout.
Why has one piece of music here, the Elgar Cello Concerto played by Jacqueline DuPre become so legendary? Of course it is the music itself. It has an overpowerful haunting deeply hypnotic feeling. Elgar wrote it after his recovery from a serious illness towards the end of the First War, and his thoughts were certainly on the suffering of life, and the inevitability of death. Du Pre brings to the piece not only her great mastery as cellist, but some deeper element of feeling. There is in the playing a sense of romantic abandoment of wild disturbance, and of intense and even ferious concentration.
Maxim Vengerov now confronts - and conquers - one of the supreme challenges all great violinists must face: The Brahms violin concerto. This beautiful, virtuosic work has defined careers from Heifetz to Perlman. Vengerov's turn has come, and his rich, burnished tone and impassioned phrasing make this one of the standout concerto CDs of the year. The soulful partnership of Vengerov and Barenboim (one of his most important mentors) is also a strong selling point.
The Grammy award-winning pianist Daniel Barenboim, long known for his Mozart interpretations, turns his attention to Mozart's last 8 piano concertos. The music of Mozart has quite literally been an essential driving force of Daniel Barenboim’s entire life. It remains central to his performing career both as a pianist and as a conductor. These illuminating performances of Mozart’s last eight great piano concertos admirably demonstrate Barenboim’s dictum that even when a true musician has already performed a familiar work hundreds of times, he or she ‘never accepts that the next note will be played the same way as it was played before.’
From the Royal Albert Hall, Daniel Barenboim returns to the Proms with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the celebrated ensemble of young Arabs and Israelis. Following his highly acclaimed Proms performance of Wagner's Ring in 2013, Barenboim conducts two Wagner overtures - Tannhauser and The Mastersingers of Nuremberg - alongside music from Gotterdammerung. The great pianist Martha Argerich is the soloist in Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1 and the programme also includes Jorg Widmann's lively Con Brio.