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Daniel Barenboim is no stranger to the Brahms concertos, recording them initially with his mentor, Sir John Barbirolli (New Philharmonia), then with his friend Zubin Mehta; there is also a DVD from Athens with Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic (Arthaus). These performances with Dudamel are live from the Philharmonie in Berlin (both concertos were played in the same concert), performed during the Berliner Festspiele in 2014, and they benefit from the real frisson; on the flip side, not everything is absolutely polished from the soloist on a technical level.

The First Concerto is the most successful. Dudamel’s orchestral exposition is tremendously powerful and is captured in first-rate, immediate sound. Barenboim’s sound is rather brittle, both at his first entry and in later passages which require Brahmsian heft; yet his voice-leading is sensitive and he seems more ready these days to be expansive. The music breathes in the central Adagio and both Barenboim and Dudamel enter Brahms’ world completely, with Dudamel achieving properly chthonic sounds from his lower strings. But this is not a consistent performance, and the closing section is plodding.

The Second takes time to coalesce, with the two streams of Barenboim (rather ponderous) and Dudamel (magnificently sensitive throughout) only really meeting towards the end of the first movement. The second movement is low-energy, balanced by a beautifully rapt third movement. The finale is delicate and properly Allegretto. Unfortunately, neither performance is consistent enough to merit a top recommendation.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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