Screenshot from broadcast
Saturday, January 7, 2023
Berliner Philharmonie, Herbert-von-Karajan-Straße, Berlin
It was a strange alteration of pieces considering the two original works are firmly in both artists’ repertoires, but such matters were anyway eclipsed yesterday when Daniel Barenboim announced his resignation as music director from Staatsoper unter den Linden (effective January 31) due to poor health, an unfortunate development he had publicised a few months ago.
With the Philharmoniker, seated, as throughout the concert, if looking somewhat awkward in that position, Barenboim led an account of Brahms’s Second Symphony that had a first movement that was certainly non troppo, somewhat sepia-tinted, gaining pace and power by instalments, a moulded countenance that carried into the Adagio, gracefully refuted in the successor movement, with the Finale a determined pay-off, not rushing to what was a stoical conclusion, the glory being the Berliners’ playing.
In the first half, Martha Argerich played Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Following her whiplash first entrance, and Albrecht Mayer’s very expressive oboe solo, the performance went on to be vivid, excitable (if a little splashy from the pianist), intimately lyrical and expansive, with volatile contrasts, and further distinguished woodwind contributions, the first movement culminating in an ink-still-wet cadenza. The slow movement was gentle and blossomed in its own time, raptly; then, following a suspenseful setting-up, the Finale bowled along, with episodic deviations of tempo, sometimes Argerich’s fingers were not quite fleet enough, the movement itself rather too sectional – yet there was an energy and experience present that transcended what are anyway minor cavils.
Both performances won prolonged applause and standing ovations. For an encore following the Schumann, it was four hands at the keyboard, Argerich & Barenboim presiding over a soothing number from Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants.