UNDERMINING THE THEME?
MALCOLM MILLER is disappointed by a
Barenboim Beethoven recital in London
That Daniel Barenboim is one of the most gifted musical artists in the world is beyond doubt, and hardly needs mention, since so much has been written about it. His initial career as a pianist has evolved into that of conductor-pianist, almost unrivalled with countless memorable performance with leading orchestras to his credit. His founding and directing the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra has captured the public imagination as a beacon of hope for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Arabs, and he has been acclaimed as a result for his wider political gestures (see my previous review in M&V). Barenboim has been the pianistic hero of many music lovers and musicians, such as myself, who have followed his superlative recordings and performances from his -- and our -- youth. Any chance to attend a Barenboim concert is always a treat to be relished. So it was all the more disappointing for me to attend one of the Beethoven Cycle recitals at the South Bank, a special highlight to which I was greatly looking forward.
The recital on Saturday 9 February 2008 had a wonderful selection of sonatas: Op 27 No 1, Op 10 No3, Op 90 and Op 53 'Waldstein'. Yet the performances were full of basic musical shortcomings and far short of pianistic qualities one has come to expect of the great master. And overall if I had to ask whether I had enjoyed an evening of Barenboim playing Beethoven, the honest answer would be that on this occasion, it would be too easy to say that there was 'too much Barenboim and too little Beethoven': rather, it was the case that Barenboim himself did not reach his usual standards, and that his readings did not do full justice to Beethoven's conception.
Copyright © 11 February 2008
Malcolm Miller, London UK