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In general, the evening brought interpretations that favoured energy and broad sweep over detail and nuance. The second movement of Op 27 No 1 was unclear due to the fast speed, coupled with a rather bumpy, unrhythmic-ness. In the beautiful aria-like third movement Barenboim, clearly aiming to be lyrical, still did not produce his usual radiant piano tone, while the fugal finale (after the improvised transition) similarly avoided the delicate wit of its syncopated textures, even though there was no doubt as to Barenboim's zestful virtuosity, the fruit of years of experience. And the recital improved markedly in the second half.

Op 90 was an altogether more satisfying experience, with some unexpected fresh insights such as the contrapuntal underlining of the lower voice towards the end of the first movement. Yet the abrupt extremes of dynamics, in the outburst to the second subject after the pianissimo repeated notes of the transition, were underlined by the slight unpolished phrasing of the downward scales that followed, some of the passionately tense chords suffering from occasional wrong notes. The slow second movement flowed with exquisite beauty, again charmingly orchestrated by lightening the bass, and the velvety melodic line at last attained that inimitable Barenboim sound, yet even here there was a slightly uncomfortable rhythmic flow, and one was not transported to the sublime heights that some interpreters can reach.

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Copyright © 11 February 2008 Malcolm Miller, London UK

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