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Hank Zauderer
My Classical Notes, November 2012

…I began to listen to the 2-DVD recording of all five of Beethoven’s piano concerti. Wow! What an experience that was! Pianist Daniel Barenboim demonstrated…what an amazing artist he is.

…this recording reflects both a very individual and very special reading of Beethoven’s music and the artist’s life-long dedication to the composer.

For me, the key aspect was one of clarity, amazing adherence to rhythm and dynamics, and a fine dialog between solo piano and the orchestra. © 2012 My Classical Notes Read complete review

Steven E. Ritter
Fanfare, September 2011

These concertos from 2007, recorded at the Klavier-Festival Ruhr, are models of emotional consistency, technical wizardry, and tasteful enunciation. Barenboim is constantly drawing out items of phrasing and emphasis that I had never heard before, but yet seem so natural and fitted to the music at hand. Period antics are not supported, though some tempos might remind you of “advances” in that department. There is glorious, rich string sound—as always exemplified by the Staatskapelle Berlin, with which the conductor recorded Beethoven’s nine symphonies a few years back—while the burnished wind sound and really emphatic timpani only add to the spice.

No. 1, actually the second to be written, is always struggled with. Performers simply don’t know whether to treat it as a late-Classical piece or early-Romantic one. Barenboim, I think, opts for the latter, but with some reserve, though the final movement bursts with energy and enthusiasm. It is a lot different from my other favorite, Ashkenazy and Solti on Decca. No. 2 to me has been owned by Argerich, but Barenboim cedes little to her in his reading, far more romantic in temperament than he takes No. 1. No. 3, the C Minor, also occasionally suffers from personality conflicts as well, in the same manner as the C Major, though at least here we have a model, Mozart’s own C-Minor (No. 25), which has the same affliction judging by the number of recordings that treat it as a precursor to the romantic movement. Barenboim would agree with this assessment, slowing down the tempo a bit, and being very deliberate in its pacing. I think I still prefer Fleisher/Szell in this one, though as a performance it is certainly worthy. The great G Major, maybe Beethoven’s finest concerto, period, is given a riveting reading here of studied nuance and some really pointed wind playing. Again the pianist sails over the keyboard in Beethoven’s many filigreed and cascading runs, and he manages the noble theme of the first movement in a way that avoids any sort of pretended nobility and makes it out to be one of the composer’s most inspired creations. If I still hang on to the memory of Arrau/Bernstein for their Amnesty International concert on DG (available only in a box set at the moment) it is only because Arrau had such a limpid and liquid tone in this concerto. Finally, the E♭-concerto, truly the most bombastic of the bunch in the wrong hands, is given a reading that is as near to perfection as I have ever heard. I thought this once of Cliburn/Reiner, but Barenboim the pianist matches the insights of Barenboim the conductor at every turn, and manages to transform the opening movement’s ostentatiousness into true thematic wonder with its lyrical line and sweeping phrases. He keeps it going and keeps it flashy by avoiding excess and letting the nature of the music itself provide the fireworks.

I don’t think I can recommend this set highly enough, easily the equal of any CD or SACD set I know, and available in PCM, Dolby Digital, and DTS surround sound, each spectacular. The camerawork, by the way, is excellent, appropriate, and non-intrusive, only adding to the experience, though I have no doubt I will listen to the set many times with the TV off.

James Reel
Fanfare, July 2010

…these are very fine performances indeed, right from the very first concerto. Its first movement is exceptionally playful, with extreme dynamic contrasts in the beginning; the third movement benefits from great detail in the orchestra’s articulation, dynamics, and rhythmic pointing—clearly, Barenboim takes his conducting duties as seriously as his soloing. Less to my liking is Barenboim’s tendency to draw out all the slow movements as if they were late Beethoven, but it’s a legitimate interpretive choice…In PCM stereo, the orchestra sounds close and dry, rather like the Cleveland Orchestra in the classic Leon Fleisher audio-only set. Everything, including the piano, sounds much richer in the DTS surround version. The aspect ratio is 16:9, and the visual component offers great clarity and depth of color, even in shots where the color is limited mainly to that of the string instruments and music stands. I can’t say that the utilitarian hall is much to look at in the background, except when the shadows along the walls begin to lengthen; the cycle was shot over the course of three days, around sunset each day, and you can see the natural light change over the course of each concerto. That’s an unexpected extra in an attractive release.

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1:55:43 AM, 3 September 2015
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