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Richard Haskell
The WholeNote, October 2010

Was it Anton Rubinstein who once said “Eternal sunshine thy name is Mozart?” Whoever it was would undoubtedly applaud the addition of two new Mozart piano concerto recordings to the already vast number available, performed by two pianists now considered to be among the world’s greatest.

At the age of 67, Daniel Barenboim may be considered one the veterans of the concert-stage, as both pianist and conductor. His newest offering, on the BR Klassik label, features performances from the archives of concertos No.22 and 23 along with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under the direction of Rafael Kubelik. Concerto No.22, written in Vienna in 1785, is a joyful and optimistic work, and here the music is treated in a fresh and engaging manner. The tempo of the first movement, while perhaps a bit brisk, doesn’t detract from the performance, while the second movement Andante and the exuberant Rondo finale constitute a perfect pairing between soloist and orchestra. Concerto No.23 from 1786, was recorded live, and once again, the fine performance is further enhanced by the excellent sound quality—clean and dynamic, it’s as good as you would find today. Recorded in 1970, it’s a mystery as to why it took so long to release these exemplary performances, but they were well worth the wait. This disc is a gem!

Burton Rothleder
Fanfare, September 2010

Twenty-eight year old Daniel Barenboim and the esteemed conductor Rafael Kubelík are heard here in two of Mozart’s most profound and appealing piano concertos....The first and third movements of the E concerto (K 482) on this CD are played at rather fast tempos...The second-movement variations, however, are exceptionally well played...The A-Major Concerto (K 488) fares better than its companion concerto under Barenboim/Kubelík [with] more discernible orchestral detail...The plaintive F-Minor Adagio has Barenboim at his best...Kubelík’s independence as conductor produces a more convincing emotional effect. The final movement is a Barenboim/Kubelík triumph in terms of the exuberance demanded by the music and the orchestral detail provided by the conductor. Especially noteworthy are the important bassoon passages, which are never masked, and the three appearances of the passage borrowed from the first movement of the B-Concerto (K 456), which are gloriously bouncy...This is a disc worth having because Barenboim and Kubelík have something unique to say about these concertos.

Lindsay Kemp
Gramophone, September 2010

Forty-year old Barenboim recordings rescued from Bavarian Radio’s archive

According to Daniel Kubelík early on gently advised him of the necessity sometimes to “sacrifice the beauty of the moment in favour of the beauty of a long line and a structure”. Should you wonder what he meant, or whether Barenboim took any notice, look no further than these Mozart concerto performances, here finding their way onto CD for the first time after 40 years in the Bavarian Radio archive. They were recorded in Munich’s Herkulessaal in 1970, when the 28-year-old Barenboim was halfway through his celebrated self-directed Mozart piano concerto cycle with the English Chamber Orchestra (EMI, 6/90), and a comparison between the two K482s reveals all you need to know. The Bavarian performance is totally without self-indulgence, bright and perky in the outer movements and finding truly touching simplicity in the intense Andante; Barenboim is brilliantly virtuoso but never too big for his boots, and indeed who would be in the face of the authority and grandeur Kubelík commands in the tuttis? The ECO account, from two years later, is softer and more beautiful but Barenboim sometimes labours his expressive points, taking longer over everything and losing momentum in the “minuet” section of the finale. With Kubelík the music’s pace and direction never slip, and neither does its sense of architecture—has the surprise reappearance of that held-back melody at the end ever sounded so right or so delectable?

The differences are less marked in K488; Barenboim had inaugurated his ECO project with the same work in 1967 so perhaps felt more at home, and both performances are predictably aristocratic, with the introspective return of the slow movement’s main theme an especially memorable moment in the Bavarian version. Despite the occasional rough edge to orchestral playing and sound balance—K488 is live, K482 a presumably slightly hurried “studio”—this is an exhilarating rediscovery.

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2010

BR Klassik’s release of June 1970 recordings of Mozart Piano Concertos 22 and 23 by pianist Daniel Barenboim and the Bavarian RSO under then music director Rafael Kubelik points up the distance we have come towards more expressive Mozart interpretation in the last forty years. These are magisterial, nononsense, straightforward approaches to two of the composer’s most emotionally touching concertos...Most of all, these performances are extremely cohesive, as if pianist and conductor were both of exactly the same mind and were accustomed to each anticipating the other’s moves. That’s not too surprising, as Kubelik was one of Barenboim’s mentors in the years before the latter, who had already made his conducting debut, became one of the most eminent conductors of recent decades as director of the Orchestre de Paris (19751989) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (19912006). And indeed, Barenboim makes his points like a conductor and not a virtuoso pianist in both these concertos, keeping always in mind the broad overview of the work of music, its long lines and arching structures.

That’s not to say that virtuosity plays no part in Barenboim’s performances. The 47bar Andantino cantabile that occurs as a backward glance in the midst of that lighthearted finale in Concerto No. 22 in Eflat major gives him the opportunity to display the most beautiful (and totally appropriate) pianissimo shadings, pointing up the poignancy of the moment. He does it again in the cadenza to the opening Allegro movement of Concerto No. 23 in A major.

In the slow movements of both concertos, nicely formed chiaroscuro effects by soloist and orchestra help describe a range of emotions: pensiveness, sadness, and loneliness, perhaps even alienation. No. 22, Mozart’s first concerto to employ clarinet parts, uses their sonorities effectively to reinforce the melancholy atmosphere of its profound Cminor Andante. In No. 23, the Fsharp minor Adagio might have been just as solemn were it not for the enlightening theme in wide leaps undertaken by the piano and the sunny episode in A major, ushered in by flute and clarinet, that dispel much of the gloom.

James Manheim, June 2010

Daniel Barenboim looks indeterminate in age in the cover photo of this release and nothing else tells the buyer that these are historical performances, recorded in 1970 and never before release. One of them, the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, is live; the other is an analog studio recording. Nothing in the booklet (in German, English, and French) explains how these recordings happened to languish in the vaults for four decades and then resurface. Yet none of this affects the product, which is very fine. No audiophile should be dissuaded by the age of these recordings, which can stand with modern digital releases. And Barenboim shows the kind of spirit that put him on the map. He imposes himself on quite energetic (and, from the modern point of view, oversized) orchestral work by the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Rafael Kubelik, seizing control of the dialogue and standing up to whatever the orchestra can throw at him. His fast movement entrances are wiry and sharply defined. In the second subject areas he relaxes into a languid lyricism, and then he pushes the emphasis toward the recapitulations in a way that few Mozart pianists manage. His slow movements are almost Romantic, and the finales offer a grand climax to the whole after again starting briskly but noncommittally. In short, Barenboim creates whole narratives that operate independently of the orchestra while still coordinating closely with it. A very nice find for Barenboim fans.

Norman Lebrecht
Dilettante, May 2010

The first time I met Daniel Barenboim he was ushering Rafael Kubelik into a Paris concert hall. The affection between them was symbiotic, and it can be heard in these 1970 collaborations, Kubelik conducting with nostalgic geniality and Barenboim playing with impulsive spontaneity.

John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, May 2010

My earliest recollection of Barenboim performing Mozart was his 1968–71 recordings of the late Mozart symphonies on EMI with the English Chamber Orchestra. For their spark and imagination, I thought at the time they were the best all-around performances of the symphonies I had heard, and I continue to prize them highly. So it was with a good deal of eager anticipation that I listened to these Mozart piano concertos recorded around the same time, 1970, that he conducted the symphonies, with Barenboim this time on piano and Rafael Kubelik leading the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Surprisingly, the folks at BR Klassik are releasing the performances now for the very first time, but better late than never, I suppose; they did not disappoint me in any way.

Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, KV 482 is an analogue studio recording sounding better than almost anything you’ll find today. The interpretation is wonderfully dynamic under Kubelik, he and his orchestra are perfect accompanists for Barenboim, whose playing is lively and fresh, just as his symphony recordings of the same era were. The opening Allegro is joyous, despite quick tempos the music never seeming hurried, followed by a slow middle movement, with feelings of longing and loneliness as effective and affecting as anyone could ask. Then Mozart changes the mood entirely with a bouncy, catchy final Allegro, which, nevertheless, Barenboim manages to merge seamlessly with the wistful preceding passages, making a well-knit whole that is maybe the best I’ve ever heard in this work.

Concerto No. 23 in A major, KV 488 is a live recording, also from 1970. The booklet note tells us that No. 23 was the very first Mozart concerto Barenboim ever played—at the age of eight! I guess you could say he knew it pretty well. No. 23 has a more mellow, mature quality to it than No. 22, with a more melancholy slow movement, and the pianist, conductor, and orchestra bring to it great intensity and emotional thrust, yet without any sense of the melodramatic. Although Barenboim and Kubelik make both pieces highly personal, they keep their own emotions from intruding on the music, letting Mozart speak for himself.

Moreover, the excellence of the sound complements the brilliance of the performances, especially in the studio recording. There is great presence here, with a big, grand, natural, you-are-there realism that doesn’t sacrifice its concert-hall warmth and ambience. You’ll find these recordings clean, translucent, and dynamic, the sonics as vibrant and engaging as the music.

It’s a splendid album from every angle, an absolute delight, and a complete mystery why it sat waiting forty years for somebody to release it. These concertos are little gems, and under Barenboim and company they sparkle.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, May 2010

These 1970 recordings are from Barenboim’s ‘Wunderkind’ years: profoundly probing and poetic, brilliantly virtuosic, even if the audio is somewhat dated by today’s standards. By the time he made this recording, he had already done all the Beethoven Sonatas and Concertos for EMI, and was yet to become the deeply probing, grand master and conductor we’ve come to know in recent years. His many fans are sure to welcome this reissue.

Daniel Ross
BBC Music Magazine, April 2010

Two superb performances from one of the world’s true greats.

In his many writings about music, Daniel Barenboim describes how emotion cannot be expressed in music without first understanding it, that to truly affect an audience you must use your technical tools to their utmost effect. This recording of two Mozart piano concertos (written in Krakow and Paris respectively, in a period of intense prolificacy) displays these ideas quite plainly, even though they were recorded in 1970 and relatively early in his career, before he was even 30 years old.

Barenboim, while revered at the time, was yet to achieve the success that he’s now famous for, but there’s an incredible fastidiousness evident here. When, in the second movement of Nr. 22, it would be easy to skip through the linking passages and cadenzas, Barenboim’s rubato playing is deliciously tempered. He ekes out all possible emotional without it becoming cloying, masterfully displaying his interpretative powers. He calls on the Symphonieorcherster des Bayerischen Rundfunks in a confidently authoritative style, making the smallest gestures possessive of the most dramatic power.

Strangely, the third and final movement hardly begins with riotous relish. It is restrained, even meek when Mozart decides to restate his themes towards the end; but under Barenboim’s fingers the momentum is defiantly denied until the very end. While it’s brave and, some might argue, foolish to deny the audience its gratification for quite such a long time, it certainly says something about the bravado of this young performer. If you can be bothered to make the effort (and you should be), it’s a jolly old climax, and wholly worth waiting for.

It is a slight let-down, then, that the high standard is not quite upheld for the second concerto on this still-stellar disc. Even if it’s not quite as charged, dense and rewarding a concerto as the first, Nr. 23 and the interpretation of it still harbour some pleasant intricacy. The interplay between piano and clarinet in the first movement, the sublime transition between the first and second movements and the hammering exuberance of the finale are all wonderful, but broader artistic strokes are drawn, and Barenboim has more work to do with a lesser piece.

Ultimately, criticising Barenboim’s work in such a hungry performance period for him is like having too many fivers to fit in your pocket—missing the point, somewhat. Captured here are two superb performances from one of the world’s true artistic greats on attentive and explosive form.

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