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Daniel Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942 and received his first piano lessons at age five from his mother. Later, he studied under his father, who would remain his only piano teacher. He gave his first public concert when he was seven and in 1952, he moved with his parents to Israel. At the age of ten, Barenboim gave his international debut performance as a solo pianist in Vienna and Rome, followed by Paris (1955), London (1956) and New York (1957). He began his recording career in 1954 as a pianist. He signed exclusively to EMI in 1966 and in the space of a few years he recorded the Beethoven Piano Sonatas, the Beethoven Piano Concertos (with Otto Klemperer), the Brahms Piano Concertos (with Sir John Barbirolli), and all the Mozart piano concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, directing from the keyboard. Ever since his conducting debut in 1967 in London with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim has been in great demand with leading orchestras around the world. He made his debut as an opera conductor at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973 with Mozart’s Don Giovanni and in 1981 he conducted for the first time in Bayreuth, where he would conduct every summer until 1999. His career continues to flourish with even-increasing success and he is now one of the most respected and admired musicians in the world.
The first CD is devoted to Barenboim performing music by Mozart, beginning with the Piano Concerto No.23 in A (K488) with the English Chamber Orchestra directed from the keyboard by the young Barenboim soon after he began recording for EMI. Then we hear Barenboim in chamber music, in Mozart’s Piano Trio in G K564, recorded almost 40 years later, with the outstanding Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider and the young Belarusian cellist Kyril Zlotnikov, whom Barenboim admires so much that he has loaned him the Peresson cello that had belonged to Barenboim’s wife, the late Jacqueline du Pré. Next comes Mozart’s set of Variations on ‘Les hommes pieusement’ by Gluck, and then Barenboim moves to the role of operatic conductor with the Mask Trio from Don Giovanni, recorded with the cast he conducted at the Edinburgh Festival in 1973. The CD concludes with the finale from Mozart’s famous ‘Jupiter’ Symphony in which Barenboim conducts the Orchestre de Paris, of which he was principal conductor from 1975 to 1989.
CD 2 presents Barenboim in a wide range of contrasting repertoire, illustrating his extreme versatility as both pianist and conductor. The programme begins with Beethoven’s ‘Choral Fantasy’ which Barenboim conducts from the keyboard – no mean feat since the work involves a full symphony orchestra, a chorus and six vocal soloists, as well as the piano! The two movements from Bizet’s charming Jeux d’enfants are a further reminder of Barenboim’s time with the Orchestre de Paris, and then the opening movement from Bartók’s powerful First Piano Concerto gives Barenboim the opportunity to demonstrate his keyboard virtuosity in music of the 20th century. Chopin’s Prelude No.4 in E minor is a brief glimpse of Barenboim’s understanding of the music of this Polish genius before we move to the romantic third movement of Brahms’s monumental Second Piano Concerto with Barenboim as an inspired soloist. The last two pieces put Barenboim back in the role of conductor, firstly in Fauré’s hauntingly beautiful Pavane recorded in Paris and then in Bruckner’s magnificent Te Deum with the forces of the New Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra and four distinguished vocal soloists.
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