On My New Piano: Daniel Barenboim

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Album title:
On My New Piano
Composer(s):
Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner, Works by Scarlatti
Works:
Works by Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin, Wagner and Liszt
Performer:
Daniel Barenboim (piano)
Label:
Decca
Catalogue Number:
479 6724
Performance:
starstarstarstarnostar
Recording:
starstarstarstarnostar
4
Reviewer:
BBC Music Magazine
On My New Piano: Daniel Barenboim

On a trip to Sienna in 2011, Daniel Barenboim had the chance to play a piano once owned by Liszt. And it gave him an idea. Why couldn’t a modern piano have the ‘transparent sound quality and distinguishable colour registers’ of this older instrument? Four years later, the ‘Barenboim’ was unveiled – and now the legendary maestro has recorded his first album on it, eager to show off his new toy.

And right from the crisp, fresh Scarlatti that opens this recital, the sound is noticeably different to, say, the ubiquitous Steinway. There’s a lightness, clarity and definition to it; the music comes across more like an etching than an oil painting. That’s because the instrument has straight strings rather than using the diagonal overstrung design of most contemporary concert grands. It suits well the Beethoven 32 Variations in C minor on an Original Theme, too, although perhaps in Chopin’s Ballade in G minor I missed some of the bass resonance of a Steinway. That’s a question of taste, I’m sure, and I’m not the one playing the piano. That’s the beaming Barenboim: ‘I’ve fallen in love with it,’ he says in the booklet notes. ‘I want to spend as much time with it as possible.’

Liszt, naturally, gets the final word. First, his transcription of the Solemn March to the Holy Grail from Wagner’s Parsifal, played with reverential atmosphere. Then Funérailles and the Mephisto Waltz No. 1, both of which allow Barenboim to show off the piano’s response to virtuosic passagework, varied articulation and judicious pedalling. If this recording feels more like a brochure for the piano than a meaningful recital, then that’s probably the point.

Rebecca Franks

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