Reviews

GHCD 2390 - The Earliest Barenboim Recordings

GHCD 2390 – Daniel Barenboim, Rare first recordings 1955

Daniel Barenboim (piano)

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Audiophile Audition – March 21, 2012

Daniel Barenboim (b. 1942) enters his seventieth year in 2012, his having been active in music since the age of seven, when he gave his first concert in Buenos Aires. Praised by Wilhelm Furtwaengler, Adolf Busch, and Artur Rubinstein, the young Barenboim entered into a record contract with Philips in 1955, inscribing three 45 rpm Extended-Play discs for the company at age thirteen. These early efforts by the musical wunderkind find their way to us now, by way of Guild.
A light lithe touch informs the first series of sonatas by J.C. Bach (wrongly attributed to J.S. Bach on the labeling) and Pergolesi. Besides the rhythmic propulsion of the pieces, Barenboim injects fervent grace notes and degrees of dynamic shading quite charming and stylistically canny. The Mozart “Twinkle, twinkle” Variations convey a natural lilt and solid articulation of the theme and its polished progressions. The musical line maintains its arch and does not sag, and the clear, uncluttered accents add a pungent bite to the reading. Mendelssohn’s brisk, moto-perpetuo Capriccio, Op. 5 pushes the young talent into the bravura realm, the jerky accents and fluttering filigree presenting no problem for those deft young fingers. The combination of syncopes and contrapuntal motion achieves a fervent sense of poise, remarkable for any pianist. The fervent stamina of the youngster proves undeniable, quite in the spirit of Fritz Busch’s reaction to the equally gifted young Yehudi Menuhin.
The detached accents of the Brahms Intermezzo in C quite startle in their integrity and maturity of conception. The last page skitters away with vivacious aplomb. Kabalevsky’s energetic Sonatina seems tailor-made for the young firebrand, with its mercurial temperament and lightening changes of affect. The music’s heart, the central Andantino, conveys a Schumann-like simplicity or lullaby, almost a movement out of Debussy’s Children Corner Suite except for its middle section which resounds with Mussorgsky‘s Bydlo from Pictures at an Exhibition. The Presto is all knuckles and flying fingers, a bubbly romp in a toccata’s light hues. The Shostakovich homage to Bach via his Op. 34 lets Barenboim roam in various keys in colorful, often piquant miniatures. After an elusive No. 2, No. 3 evolves into a brief but striking, even ominous, nocturne touched by moments of counterpoint. No. 24 proffers the Shostakovich askew irony that combines a bit of Prokofiev with his own Age of Gold music. No. 10, in waltz-like figures, makes the case for the lyrical, diaphanous side of Shostakovich that immortalizes him. Prelude No. 12 places swirling figures against a variant on an Alberti bass, bittersweet. No. 21 and No. 5, both incredibly condensed, compete with Liszt for delicacy of touch and virile fluency, respectively. That the youthful Barenboim traverses every challenge so definitively warrants awe and the collector’s purchase.
Gary Lemco