Staatskapelle Berlin / Barenboim, Royal Festival Hall, London


Daniel Barenboim has earned his adoration. He could stand on one leg and whistle “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” and still bring audiences to their feet.

It’s a respect thing, it’s the history he brings to the table, the intellect and theory he now makes so effortlessly practical. His performances – particularly at the keyboard – breathe a different air. You may not always agree with them but you’d be foolish to disregard them.

When he first recorded the Beethoven Concertos with the great Otto Klemperer the best part of half a century ago (yes, really) the idea of programming them alongside works by Arnold Schoenberg might have been viewed as capricious, even pretentious. Now the logic is inescapable: two highly influential composers both able to summarise the past whilst redefining the future. And with Barenboim as teacher audiences are better disposed to learn (and buy tickets). As I say, it’s a respect thing: trust me, I’m Barenboim.

With the Beethoven Concertos he is now resolved to be answerable only to himself. Directing from the keyboard he can shape and mould the Staatskapelle Berlin in his own pianistic image. The opening of the First Piano Concerto was so discreet, so intimate, that the violins’ statement of the first subject might almost have been coming from another room. It felt overheard, self-consciously so, but it did suggest half-remembered Haydn and it did instantly draw us in to Barenboim’s inner world. The really marvellous moments in this performance were visionary and dream-like, as if Barenboim was already scenting the world of Maeterlinck and Schoenberg approaching in the second half.

With the dark shift of tonality into the development of the first movement the pulse slowed almost imperceptibly to take in the uncharted terrain. A chain of descending chords opened magic casements onto an altogether more perfect world and then like beauty confronting the beast a solo bassoon triggered precipitous drama in the piano’s bass register. The only predictable thing about Beethoven is his unpredictability and in that Barenboim is very much a kindred spirit. His sometimes halting rubatos are very “old school” but they speak of rapture and the deepest contemplation. And only an elder statesman could treat the first movement cadenza as his own internal extemporisation of “the story so far”. Actually I’m pretty sure it was his own cadenza, full of mysterious key changes and a grandiose climax which seemed to anticipate the “Emperor” concerto in a couple of days time. The finale brought the odd smudges – but who really cares about those – and the Beethovenian equivalent of Jelly Roll Morton in the jazzy middle section. That really went with a swing.

Strangely enough the distracted dream-world of Maeterlinck’s Pelleas und Melisande as realised in Schoenberg’s early tone poem found a more detached Barenboim as if his fascination with the piece was more theoretical than emotional. The Staatskapelle Berlin offered a sumptuous enough palette of sound but unlike the Beethoven it felt strangely impersonal. Or is that the piece?

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own