Deutsche Grammophon is set to honour the supreme artistry of Daniel Barenboim throughout the coming year as he approaches his 80th birthday next November. The great pianist and conductor’s remarkable legacy of recordings for the Yellow Label will be the focus of a major campaign comprising three albums, two DG Stage concerts and a series of e-video releases. The anniversary celebrations begin on 31 December 2021 with the release of an e-single of Debussy’s Clair de lune, one of the highlights of Maestro Barenboim’s first DG album of 2022.
“I am grateful that Deutsche Grammophon has chosen to mark the year of my 80th birthday with recent performances as well as an album made during my early years with the label,” comments Daniel Barenboim. “I believe these recordings show how music exists as a world in itself, never the same twice, always changing, no matter how many times we perform a particular composition. This is the great privilege of being a musician, the chance to learn new things every time we play the same piece. And it’s a further privilege to be able to share this experience with audiences.”
The tribute begins with a brand-new selection of the pianist’s favourite encores, released on 25 March. Specially recorded in Barenboim’s Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin, Encores features miniature masterpieces by Albéniz, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Schubert and Schumann. These six composers, long close to Barenboim’s heart, give an idea of the sheer variety of his vast repertoire, and each piece is conveyed in his inimitably idiomatic and communicative style. Encores will be followed on 29 July by the reissue of his sublime interpretations of Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte (“Songs Without Words”), which originally came out in 1974 as a 3-LP set. Finally, Barenboim’s latest readings of Schumann’s four symphonies, recorded live with the Staatskapelle Berlin over three evenings at the Staatsoper Berlin and Philharmonie Berlin, will be issued on 7 October.
In July 1972, Daniel Barenboim signed a contract to make a dozen albums for Deutsche Grammophon. His first recordings for the label included a selection of Brahms piano works and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Over the next two decades he built the foundations of a remarkable catalogue for the Yellow Label, including landmark recordings of Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder and Schubert’s Winterreise with the legendary baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; the symphonies of Schumann and Bruckner with the CSO; Debussy orchestral works with the Orchestre de Paris; works for violin and orchestra by Lalo and Berlioz with Itzhak Perlman; Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli; music by Alban Berg with Pinchas Zukerman and Pierre Boulez; and the first of two cycles for DG of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas. The second was recorded during lockdown in 2020, Barenboim having signed a new exclusive contract with DG in 2018.
His very first recordings, made in the 1950s and early 1960s for the Westminster and Command labels, have been reissued by the Yellow Label. A still growing DG discography therefore also now includes important early interpretations from a pianist whose first public performance, given when he was just seven, was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation. Legend has it that after playing seven encores, the little boy went back on stage one last time and said to the audience, “I’m sorry, I’ve played everything I can!”
Now it seems there’s nothing the multi-award-winning Barenboim cannot do in the world of music. As noted by Opera Now, “He’s one of the most versatile cultural figures of our time.” Not only an acclaimed soloist and a conductor as much at home in the opera house as he is on the concert stage, he is a dedicated chamber musician, performing and recording with old friends such as Martha Argerich, Yo-Yo Ma and Anne-Sophie Mutter, and younger virtuosos such as Kian Soltani or his violinist son Michael. He is also a respected speaker, peace activist and champion of music education.
“We are privileged to work with Daniel Barenboim at the heart of the Yellow Label,” says Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “The intellectual curiosity, spiritual insights and mature artistry of his music making deserve every accolade, as does his work as a humanitarian, educator, innovator and passionate advocate for music as a force for good in the world. For this anniversary year, we are going to present multiple facets of his creative work, ranging from a reissue of one of his earliest recordings for DG to recent live recordings, including a brand-new Schumann symphony cycle with the Staatskapelle Berlin and an album of piano encores made at the Pierre Boulez Saal, his pioneering centre for the promotion of cultural exchange and dialogue in Berlin. We look forward to working on many more projects in the years to come with Maestro Barenboim, who is a major source of inspiration for classical music and our civil society as a whole.”
Deutsche Grammophon’s anniversary campaign gathers momentum at the beginning of 2022 with two concerts streamed on DG Stage. Daniel Barenboim is joined on 14 January by his childhood friend Martha Argerich. Their programme of piano duos will be followed on 21 January by a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto given to mark the 20th anniversary of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra – the groundbreaking ensemble the maestro co-founded with Edward Said in 1999 to promote intercultural dialogue. Barenboim is joined by Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yo-Yo Ma as he directs the orchestra from the piano.