A magic moment in the history of classical music: Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim – both from Buenos Aires – team up for a duo recital at Berlin's Philharmonie. A reunion of the two classical superstars after more than 15 years. THE concert highlight from Berlin's fully packed Philharmonie on the occasion of the "Festtage der Berliner Staatsoper 2014".
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.
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.
For the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin, the renowned Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen invited the Staatskapelle Berlin to give a truly special program: the rare combination of Chopin‘s two piano concertos in one concert. For this purpose Daniel Barenboim, the orchestra‘s principal conductor, handed over the reins of „his“ ensemble to up-and-coming young conductor Andris Nelsons, assuming the role of piano soloist instead. The press raved: „Storms of applause for a dream couple: Daniel Barenboim and Andris Nelsons won over the audience […] with their rousing Chopin interpretations“.
The disc is EMI's budget CD, but the performances included here are of highest quality. In fact I've never come across any performances that come so close to Chopin's ideal - the fragile beauty, the shimmering tone colours, the noble poetry and the heart-felt intimacy of Barenboim's playing reminds me of what Chopin's contemporaries described of his pianism. I've got dozens of CDs of 24 Preludes, but this is the one I always come back to for its radiant beauty that only comes from a self-effacing, sincere heart.
These extraordinary performances were recorded live at the Herodes Atticus Odeon in Athens in 2004 and offer the first musical encounter between Daniel Barenboim and Simon Rattle. One-time rivals for the post of principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, they here unite, happy to pay tribute to each other in a performance of Brahms’s First Piano Concerto of an epic grandeur and raw emotional intensity. Barenboim, pianist, conductor and political activist, has clearly reached the pinnacle of a dazzling career (a prophecy of his recent London performances of the complete Beethoven sonatas and concertos) that has ranged from prodigy to the fullest maturity. Caught on this form, few musicians can approach him in stature. Rattle launches the opening tutti with an explosive force, and after an oddly stiff and self-conscious entry (music that Tovey claimed as equal to anything in Bach’s St Matthew Passion) he quickly declares his true status, playing with a dark eloquence and with a breadth and range of inflection that allows him to savour every detail. Rarely can the first movement’s coda have emerged with such frenzied emotion, and here in particularly both Barenboim and Rattle combine to sound like King Lear raging against the universe (“Blow winds and crack your cheeks…”). The second movement, Brahms’s response to Schumann’s attempted suicide, is weighted with an almost unbearable significance and intensity, and in the finale Wolf’s strange dictum, “Brahms cannot exult”, is turned topsy-turvy.
This DVD showcases Quasthoff’s soulful interpretation of Schubert’s Die Winterreise, filmed earlier this year in Berlin with Daniel Barenboim on the piano.
It captures not only Quasthoff’s exceptional musicality but also the emotional gravity of his performance, which led Der Tagesspiegel to extol Quasthoff’s astonishing ability "not so much recall events as relive them all over again, summoning them back to life."
In addition to the full concert, the DVD includes rich bonus footage from the rehearsal and interviews with Thomas Quasthoff and Daniel Barenboim – allowing a close look on how these two musical masterminds work out their vision of Schubert’s touching masterpiece.