Notes and Editorial Reviews
In what we're told is his first "purely solo recording" since signing an exclusive contract with Teldec, Barenboim salutes the youthful Brahms of Opp. 5 and 10, all completed - much of it in the tumultuous wake of introduction to the Schumanns - when he was only just into his twenties.
My enjoyment of the disc came from Barenboim's richly imaginative, very personally committed response to the composer's overflowing romanticism. He leaves us in no doubt that every note sprang from an acutely susceptible heart. A younger generation of keyboard tigers might Outclass him in effortlessly clear-cut response to the Herculean chordal challenges of the F minor Sonata, particularly its first movement. But technical supremacy
pales into insignificance alongside his musical insight, and nowhere more so than in the moonlit poetry of the Andante and the nostalgic Rückblick, both exquisitely nuanced and shaded within an unbroken liquid flow. As for the finale, he finds unity in its diversity before a masterly revelation of Brahms's contrapuntal cunning in the triumphant home-coming.
In the first of the Op. 10 Ballades (the only one in which Brahms revealed his inspirational source) I thought Barenboim's reaction to the patricidal drama of the central section a little too immediately excitable. But his vivid characterization throughout the four helps to explain why they were entitled "ballades" - not forgetting the sprite-haunted forest tale surely hidden in the third. His richly sung inner melody in the F sharp majorpifl lento, con intimissitno sent/memo section (so reminiscent of Robert Schumann's Op. 28 Romance in the same key) certainly points to Clara as the 'onlie begetter' of the last.
The fuller textures of the sonata Sometimes emerge a little blurred - as if by the right pedal in a reverberant venue. But for the most part the recording does justice to Barenboim's alluringly varied tonal palette.
-- J.O.C., Gramophone [10/1997]
Reviewing original release, Teldec 14338
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