Listening Room

01_Brahms.jpgBrahms – The Piano Concertos
Daniel Barenboim; Staatskapelle Berlin; Gustavo Dudamel
Deutsche Grammophon 479 4899


Seventy-two-year-old virtuoso Daniel Barenboim as soloist with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Staatskapelle Berlin make this live recording an important event. I have been moved by the sense of yearning and struggle, the feeling of sheer obsessive physicality in music-making that predominate. In the Concerto No.2 in B-Flat Major the piano echoes the opening horn-call’s ending, two octaves higher. A sense of wide-open spaces extends our comfort zone – in dynamic range and variability, pitch register (including note-to-note and between-hands distances in the piano part), and implied landscape. Barenboim displays complete confidence technically and musically. Stretched-out phrases convey longing; even over-emphasizing accents in the first movement’s exposition is justified by the weary climb of the melodic line. Dudamel and players equal Barenboim’s expressive level and finesse, including tender passages and delicate passage work. Of many highlights I will mention one: the magnificent “starry night” suggested by single, high piano notes over hushed strings towards the Andante’s end, paced beautifully by Dudamel and Barenboim.

The Concerto No.1 in D Minor is also a wonderful work of large dimensions and endless inventiveness. In the first movement the pianist has chosen the most apt structural points to broaden the tempo. Barenboim’s pedalling is clear throughout, including the rapid filigree passages. The slow movement is a model of expression and colour; in the finale, Barenboim and Dudamel capture well the serious rhetorical interplay within and between piano and orchestra parts.

Back to top