Daniel Barenboim at Teatro San Carlo di Napoli How wonderful to see this beautiful theatre full to the rafters for Daniel Barenboim’s repeat Sunday afternoon recital of Schubert, Chopin and Liszt.
A beautiful Barenboim concert grand awaiting for whom Jacqueline Du Pre described forty years ago as the greatest musician of our time. They were in their early twenties and known as the “golden couple” before she was stricken so cruelly with Multiple Sclerosis before her thirtieth birthday. I well remember going down to an afternoon performance at the Brighton Festival of Brahms Second Piano Concerto with Rubinstein at the piano and his young protege Barenboim on the podium.
Apparently there had been a special lunch party before the concert and so when Rubinstein attacked the opening cadenza even Barenboim looked down rather amused at a very approximate rendition. This was the first time that I had had a chance to hear Rubinstein’s famous interpretation! And so I was reminded of the Grand Viveur and great much loved pianist this afternoon and I can well imagine Barenboim enjoying to the full a wondrous sunny pre Christmas Naples and then suddenly finding himself in front of a shiny Barenboim piano in one of the most magical theatres in the world.
Two Schubert Sonatas in the first half :the early D.575 in B major and the great penultimate Sonata in A. Some beautiful things, of course, but some very approximate passage work on the rather mellow sounding piano that Barenboim had commissioned especially from Roberto Valli .A copy of a piano that Barenboim had found in Siena. And the great thinking musician had created a piano not overstrung in search of that very particular Schubertian sound.This was, in fact, the instrument we heard last year in London for his greatly received complete Schubert Sonata Cycle. Beautiful singing cantabile but a bit too reminiscent of the Fortepiano for my taste in the more Beethovenian passages that abound in these works.
Strangely enough ,though, it seemed to suit Liszt Funerailles and Mephisto Waltz very well. Infact the performance of Funerailles was the highlight of a recital which was certainly not one of Barenboims most memorable. Chopin’s first ballade had some beautiful things but seemed to conceal the fact that this was not one of Barenboims best days.
The slow movement of the little A minor Schubert Sonata D537 offered as an encore showed us the original germ of the rondo of the great late A major heard in the first half. All played with a lack of Barenboims usual energy and I just hope that like Rubinstein all those years ago that this great artist had savoured Naples to the full and will tomorrow take Rome by storm refreshed as we all were by a magical sojourn in one of the most unique cities in the world.