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Barenboim’s Decca/DG Deal Opened Up for Neglected Chopin

“… one of the few musicians in the world today who could accurately be described as legendary.”
— The Times

Daniel Barenboim marked his new affiliation with Decca and Deutsche Grammophon labels in 2010 with four releases. Two releases on DG were devoted to Chopin: a solo recital recorded in Warsaw, with Waltzes, a Polonaise, a Fantasia, a Nocturne and the B flat minor Sonata, as well as Chopin’s two Concertos, accompanied by the Berlin Staatskapelle under Andris Nelsons, captured live at the Ruhr Piano Festival in July 2010. The Chopin Year 2010 coincided with the 60th anniversary of Daniel Barenboim’s stage début, and as a pianist he decided to devote this year to the great Romantic master of the keyboard. Chopin was born on 1 March 1810 in the small village Żelazowa Wola near Warsaw, and on the eve of the 200th anniversary of this date Barenboim gave this acclaimed Warsaw recital as part of an extensive European tour. Over the years, Barenboim has been criticised for neglecting Chopin and we have to go all the way back to 1981 in order to find his DG recording of the Nocturnes.

The Warsaw Recital

Recital repertoire:

Fantasia in F minor, Op. 49
Nocturne in D flat major, Op. 27 No. 2
Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35 ‘Marche funebre’
Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Waltz A flat major “Grande Valse Brillante”, Op. 34 No. 3
Waltz in A minor, Op. 34 No. 2
Waltz in C sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2
Berceuse in D flat major, Op. 57
Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53 ‘Heroique’
Mazurka in F minor, Op. 7 No. 3
Waltz in D flat major, Op. 64 No. 1 ‘Minute Waltz’

The Warsaw Recital — Philosophy of Emotion

Reader question:
What do you think about Barenboim’s Chopin interpretations?


  1. Adrienne Says:

    Remarkable playing! Some of his earlier Chopin recordings were not bad at all but this is Barenboim at his best.

  2. Janis Says:

    Exquisite! Extraordinary control particularly with the pianissimo passages. I agree, Barenboim at his best.

  3. MS Says:

    Just lovely!

  4. Kathy Says:

    That was absolutely marvelous. Such exquisite balance and dynamic range. Loved it!

  5. Dean L. Strycjer Says:

    Barenboim takes us places we only dream of. What a gift to us all.

  6. Seymour Bernstein Says:

    For my taste, this is one of the greatest Chopin recitals I have ever heard. Still there are aspects that even Barenboim has neglected, the major one being that he ignores Chopin’s miraculous pedal indications. One example is Chopin’s long pedal at the end of the Nocturne in D-flat, right through to the final two chords. Another is the miraculous pedal indications at the opening of the Barcarolle. If only he would read my book on Chopin’s pedaling. Another concerns certain choreographic movements, which are not always consistent, such as how performs two-note phrases. He sometimes performs them gorgeously, but other times he fails to glide down with his wrist on the first tone and then glide slowly up before playing the second tone. Finally, he has slight tension in his shoulders. With the exception of the A-flat Polonaise, which to me was below the level of the rest of the recital, his poetic concept and his singing tone were heart-rending. Many of the great young pianists who recently performed at the Cliburn competition could learn a great lesson from merely observing how quietly he sits at the piano without histrionic facial and body expressions. His musicality is so overwhelming that one forgets what a phenomenal technique he has. It is always at the service of the music. This is the performance of a true master.
    PS I noticed rather impassive, almost bored expressions on many of the audience members. One would think that after such a recital the entire audience would give him a rousing standing ovation before the encores. Finally they did after the second one. There was a lot of reticence projected there.

  7. Colin Aaron Says:

    Such beautiful articulation.

  8. Joebee Says:

    Apparently the length of one’s arm does not minimize facility at the piano. Excellent performance. The music spoke to me.

  9. EbonyKhadija Says:

    One of the best All Chopin Recital ever! There was never a boring moment. Mr. Barenboim is one with the music of Chopin! Thank you for posting this PIanostreet!

  10. Zubin Balaporia Says:

    I live in India and here we do not have the opportunity to see and hear a pianist of the class and calibre of Mr. Barenboim as pianists of his stature rarely visit this side of the world.
    So it with unfathomable joy that I sat through the recording of this concert. There’s something very delicate about Chopin’s music (at least for me) and Mr. Barenboim brings this out better than anyone else I’ve heard. God bless him …..and the internet….for allowing me to hear this wonderful performance
    Zubin Balaporia
    PS: I can’t help but agreeing with Mr. Seymour Bernstein’s comment about “observing how quietly Barenboim sits at the piano without histrionic facial and body expressions. .”
    I find pianists who do that, extremely distracting and trying to “impose” a kind of feel that i feel should come from within…and this “feel” for the music, coming from within, is something that Mr. Barenboim is a master of.

  11. Luc Lebrun Says:

    Truly Mr. Barenboim is a remarkable pianist (his Beethoven and Mendelsohnn are wonderful) – but what of his Chopin? I truly respect all the comments submitted and noted that Mr. Seymour Bernstein also commented (a wonderful book on piano practice/technique written by Mr. Bernstein graces my music library).

    I must be honest on how I reacted to Mr. Barenboim’s Chopin – while his playing was wonderful, his interpretations (from the point of view of both myself and my piano teacher) was that they were not Chopin in the truest sense – that is, interpreted in the Chopin style that we are accustomed to. In short, fine playing overall ….. however ……

  12. Lenny Seidel Says:

    Agree that this is wonderful Chopin, probably Barenboim at his best. I note that no one has said anything about the Steinway used or the recording engineers. This is probably a Hamburg Steinway that produced a bright heavenly sound and a bass that does not overwhelm the delightful tones of the upper octaves. The recording is wonderful. You hear every note, every strike of the felts, each a beautiful bell tone that stands alone. I was impressed with the instrument and engineers recording as I was the playing.

  13. Jeffrey Sonheim Says:

    I think Mr Bernstein may be nitpicking. This is wonderful playing; far better than I had expected, most especially the Sonata. I also fail to fully understand Mr Lebrun’s comment about the interpretations. Mr Seidel’s compliments to the engineers are well deserved.

  14. brahm Says:

    Barenboims forte is his pianissimo. Excisit and mesmerising.
    Otherwise his pedaling and overall playing is questionable.

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