Daniel Barenboims first solo recording on the remarkable new concert grand Barenboim-Maene which he developed in collaboration with instrument maker Chris Maene.
Barenboim has selected works by four keyboard masters to display his pianos timbral and tonal capabilities: Ive fallen in love with my new piano , he exclaims, and want to spend as much time with it as possible.
Conceived and commissioned by Barenboim himself, the new piano was developed and built by esteemed Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, with support from Steinway & Sons.
Barenboim was inspired to create a new piano after playing Franz Liszts restored grand piano during a trip to Siena in September 2011. Struck by the vitalRead more differences in sound of an instrument constructed with straight, parallel strings rather than the diagonal crossed ones of a contemporary instrument, he set out to create a brand new instrument that combines the best of the old and the new and offers a real alternative for pianists and music-lovers in the 21st century.
There’s no doubting the conviction of Barenboim's Scarlatti interpretations. The opening theme of Beethoven’s C minor Variations is striking – the transparency of the piano’s lower register really comes into its own in this piece and accented chords never become edgy, and there are many fine things as the variations unfold.
I’ve never found Barenboim the most natural of Chopin players and here, despite some fine moments of filigree, the First Ballade suffers from a notably effortful coda. Wagner/Liszt on the other hand is right up his street and he brings a rare range of color and an apt grandeur to the Parsifal March, also demonstrating how well the new instrument conveys huge chordal sonorities while retaining a warmth in the quietest passages.
I have more reservations about the two Liszt pieces, though the many passages of Funérailles at the bottom of the keyboard have a rare clarity. But where the melody is set against a simple chordal accompaniment I find Barenboim less eloquent than the finest. And while he is telling in the many inward passages in the First Mephisto Waltz, streams of quiet notes given a billowing quality, I miss a heroic virtuosity in the more outlandish passages, the closing moments being a good case in point. But there’s no question that this is a fascinating and wonderful instrument and DG’s engineers have recorded it to the best effect.