Daniel Barenboim – 50 Years On Stage (2004)

by | Jul 20, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Daniel Barenboim – 50 Years On Stage (2004)
1) Jubilee Concert in Buenos Aires
2) Documentary “Multiple Identities”

Recital program: MOZART: Sonata in C Major K330; BEETHOVEN:
“Appassionata” Sonata; ALBENIZ: Iberia, Books I & II; Numerous
encores
Documentary directed by Paul Smaczny
Studio: EuroArts (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen
Audio: Concert = DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM stereo; Doc. = DD 2.0
Subtitles: English, German, French
No region code
Length: Concert = 140 min.; Doc. = 90 mins. (2 DVDs)
Rating: ****1/2

Between the piano recital and the informative documentary, one is
thoroughly immersed in the world of pianist/conductor Barenboim for
nearly four hours via these discs. Considerable skill has gone into
both productions and both the sound and image quality is superb –
supported by inspired playing in the piano recital and sensitive
filmmaking in the documentary. The recital has Barenboim “returning to
the scene of the crime” at the Sala Beyer in Buenos Aires in 2000,
where he had given his piano debut as a young boy in 1950.  He
even plays one selection he had played at that concert – a short
Scarlatti sonata. The complete Albeniz suites are presented with fire
and gusto plus great accuracy and finesse. Part of the ecstatic
audience is seated on either side of the stage, and when he gets to the
encores they just won’t let him go.  Three hours and 13 encores
later he has to point out to them that the theater must close at
midnight and they must go home.  In the video it appears there is
just one stereo mike in a low desk stand on the floor near the grand
piano, but the sound is excellent – especially in the DTS option. (It
seems to show that perhaps fewer mikes, further back, are the answer to
a more natural and realistic piano sound on recordings.)

In the documentary Barenboim revisits some of the stages in his life,
beginning with Argentina, which his family left when he was eight.
There is naturally a section on the tango – the versatile
pianist-conductor has recorded a tango CD. He is shown in Chicago where
in 1991 he took over the Chicago Symphony from Solti, and in Germany
where he also conducts. Visiting Tel Aviv, where his family moved when
he was eight, becomes a controversy when Barenboim asks the audience at
the end of the regular concert program if they would like to hear some
Wagner. It was the first time Wagner had been performed in Israel since
before WWII, but though the majority of the 3000 in the audience wanted
to hear it, a vocal minority made their concerns very clear in spirited
debate with Barenboim beforehand. Some of the TV coverage of the event
is shown. A moving section of the documentary deals with the
West-Eastern-Divan Orchestra which Barenboim founded to realize the
humanistic ideals of Beethoven, Schiller and Goethe.  Young people
from Israel, Palestine and bordering countries join together in
bridging differences thru music. There is also some family film footage
of Barenboim with his first wife, Jacqueline De Pre, whose death
tragically ended a magnificent career as a cellist. The documentary
stresses the multifaceted musical personality of Barenboim, in the
process celebrating this remarkable man of music.  It’s fortunate
this DVD is available, but few video rental outfits will be stocking
it. Why don’t we see more of this type of superb programming on
PBS?  (It may be on one of the cable channels but I wouldn’t be
aware of that.)

– John Sunier

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