Notes and Editorial Reviews
Performed by Daniel Barenboim, one of the world’s foremost Beethoven interpreters, the sumptuously-produced 6-DVD set - Barenboim on Beethoven - includes a substantial bonus in the form of six 55-minute masterclasses during which Barenboim coaches outstanding young pianists, including Lang Lang and Jonathan Biss, in a series of individual Beethoven sonata movements.
The Barenboim on Beethoven Live from Berlin sonatas were filmed during a series of eight concerts over a four week period in mid-2005 at the Staatsoper Berlin, where Barenboim serves as General Music Director. They were lavishly shot by the award-winning French filmmaker and documentary director Andy Sommer, whose credits include In Search of Beethoven, concert
films with Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle, opera broadcasts (Tristan & Isolde, Aida), Sur Incises with Pierre Boulez and In the Heart of Music - The 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Reviewing the Berlin concerts, the Berliner Morgenpost journalist Klaus Geitel wrote “what makes Daniel Barenboim’s interpretation unique is the sensitivity and intensity with which he uses the enormous range of these sonatas to paint a picture of the man: Beethoven, alone at the piano, aware of the isolating deafness he cannot escape. Daniel Barenboim deeply inspired, weaves his way in and out of Beethoven’s tragic predicament. He recreates Beethoven’s traumatic progressions as an artist.” Geitel commented in a separate review that, “What Barenboim conveyed to his audience was his determination to be creative, the intensity of his technical achievement and his musical sensuality.” The Beethoven sonatas have been an important part of Daniel Barenboim’s life and repertoire for many years and he continues to perform them, both individually and as a cycle. This is his third recording of the complete sonatas, and his first for DVD. It is likely to become the definitive version of these seminal works.
Barenboim on Beethoven The Masterclasses, a series of masterclasses in which the legendary pianist works closely with six young pianists at various stages of professional achievement, was filmed on HDTV last year at Symphony Center, Chicago. The participating pianists hail from different countries: Saleem Abboud Ashkar (of Palestinian/Israeli background); Alessio Bax (Italy); Jonathan Biss (U.S.); David Kadouch (France); Lang Lang (China); Shai Wosner (Israel). Barenboim takes each player through the sonata movement he has chosen (from Op. 31 No. 1, Op. 31 No. 2 ‘Tempest’, Op. 53 ‘Waldstein’, Op. 57 ‘Appassionata’, Op. 106 ‘Hammerklavier’, and Op. 109) illustrating the importance of structure and describing and demonstrating the interrelationships between tempo, harmony and dynamics. The improvement in each pianist’s playing is dramatic over the course of the masterclass and the audience can see and hear the transformation as it occurs.
Writing on radio station WFMT’s website about the masterclasses, which were attended by several hundred piano teachers, students and keyboard-loving members of the public, journalist Andrew Patner said, “these programs were and will be nothing short of revelatory. There is simply no one anywhere today near Barenboim’s stature as a pianist and musician who has his technical and intuitive gifts as a teacher and coach, no one who has his level of knowledge or gift of articulate – and humorous – communication. In all likelihood, these recordings will emerge as the keyboard equivalents of Leonard Bernstein’s legendary New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concerts.”
Barenboim on Beethoven The Masterclasses was directed by the celebrated filmmaker Allan Miller, who has directed many outstanding documentaries about music, including the Academy Award-winning Bolero and From Mao To Mozart: Isaac Stern in China, and an Emmy-winning documentary about Itzhak Perlman, as well as Small Wonders, a film about violin teacher Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras and The Turandot Project. Barenboim on Beethoven, a co-production of WNET, Bel Air Media Paris and NHK in association with ARTE/ France, MEZZO, NPS and the BBC with the support of the Centre National de la Cinématographie has been broadcast on BBC Four and will be shown on other select television stations worldwide beginning in the autumn of 2006.
The project was conceived by Margaret Smilow, Director of Culture and Arts Documentaries for Thirteen/WNET. Ms. Smilow, along with François Duplat, founder of Bel Air Media Paris, are executive producers of Barenboim on Beethoven and also the producers of both the masterclass and concert programmes.
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