For his second Mozart concerto and Bruckner symphony pairing of the final Proms week, Daniel Barenboim matched two relatively neglected works in each category. It made for a particularly fruitful piece of programming, and the intellectual heft of the performances underlined that these Staatskapelle Berlin concerts have been far more than just a Daniel Barenboim show.
Mozart’s penultimate piano concerto, in D major, K537, has long been a Barenboim favourite. Conducting from the keyboard, speeds were leisurely, but Barenboim was utterly engaged, savouring the work’s dynamic contrasts and the solo part’s many opportunities for competitive interplay with the orchestra. His preferred choice of Wanda Landowska’s grandly conceived first-movement cadenza brought operatic echoes, but it was the subtly varied manner in which he weighted his keyboard touch that made the strongest impression.
Depending on your preferred translation of Bruckner’s own comment, the Sixth Symphony, ostensibly in A major, is either his sauciest or his most daring symphony. It is full of abrupt changes and tonal insecurities, with little of the unfolding serenity some wrongly associate with Bruckner. Barenboim did not try to make it seem orderly or resolved, since it is neither. With the Berlin double basses lined up above and behind the winds, the opening pages were arresting. Despite some uncharacteristic horn fluffs, the wind playing in the first movement development was compellingly expressive: wild flowers on a rocky hillside. In the Adagio, with a keening oboe solo from Gregor Witt, the sense of Bruckner’s solitariness was immense, and the execution and interpretation at times very exalted.
Read more at The Guardian.