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Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, June 2014

All six Grandes Etudes de Paganini are a comparative rarity on disc…Barto’s is the best modern recording…he is acutely observant of Liszt’s directions while bringing his own distinctive voice to the music.

Throughout, you’ll notice a wealth of orchestral detail under Eschenbach’s direction in an empathetic partnership that brings an ethereal atmosphere to Var 11 and a truly scintillating verve and precision to the final six variations. © 2014 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Stephen Greenbank
MusicWeb International, May 2014

I like the way Barto colours the variations, with deft use of pedal, exploring the sonorities of the piano. He never sounds mechanical but his playing is suffused with poetic insights, where required. Throughout he is rhythmically adept with a wide dynamic range. Technical difficulties are effortlessly overcome or so he makes it seem. I was pleased that each variation is tracked separately, which is definitely an advantage—not so with many recordings.

Eschenbach is a responsive partner and manages to inspire this wonderful orchestra to scintillating effect. With beautiful rich string sound, diaphanous woodwinds and burnished brass, the mix couldn’t be better. Also, the balance between orchestra and soloist is ideal.

Sound quality for the solo items is second-to-none, with the Netherlands venue providing an ideal, spacious and warm acoustic. In the Paganini Rhapsody, recorded in Lübeck, Germany, the engineers have achieved an exemplary balance between piano and orchestra. © 2014 MusicWeb International Read complete review

International Record Review, May 2014

This remains an impressive performance, brilliant, moving and searching by turns, one that is at heart intensely musical…Pianists and collectors of piano recordings are strongly urged to hear this remarkable set of performances, especially the Rachmaninov. © 2014 International Record Review

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, March 2014

From the opening Preludio, we feel the captivating force of Barto’s potent technique, applied to the G Minor study in predominantly left-hand tremolos. The accompanying arpeggios and scales present seamless surges of powerful sonorities in pearly play and sensuous harmonies. Tonal elegance rules in the E-flat Major octave study…Barto can play exceedingly fast while maintaining a leggiero touch, a facility he likes to exploit, and rightly so.

Brahms conceived his two books of Paganini Variations in 1863, after his having moved from Hamburg to Vienna. Barto negotiates the challenges in thirds, sixths, octaves, trills, staccatos, and awkward crossed-hands, all with astute aplomb, always hinting that he, Barto, could add yet another hurtle if he chose. What makes Barto engaging remains his color palette, proffering the Brahms demand for molto dolce on one extreme and energico or feroce on the other.

Witold Lutoslawski wrote his Variations on a Theme of Paganini in 1941 for two pianos, and here Barto performs both parts by means of over-dubbing…the writing clearly imitates boogie-woogie jazz effects. The superheated finale has the theme’s playing against itself in dazzling formation, concluding with a resounding thump. Bravo!

Perhaps the most efficient review of the long-familiar Paganini Rhapsody of Rachmaninov from Luebeck, Germany with Barto and Eschenbach would resort to praising Hans-Michael Kissing on the clarion success of his sound editing. The principals perform with a tender affection complemented by their absolute mastery of the work’s considerable technical demands. © 2014 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

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