From the Royal Albert Hall, Daniel Barenboim returns to the Proms with his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the celebrated ensemble of young Arabs and Israelis. Following his highly acclaimed Proms performance of Wagner's Ring in 2013, Barenboim conducts two Wagner overtures - Tannhauser and The Mastersingers of Nuremberg - alongside music from Gotterdammerung. The great pianist Martha Argerich is the soloist in Liszt's Piano Concerto No 1 and the programme also includes Jorg Widmann's lively Con Brio.
After Decca’s best-selling Beethoven For All campaign and Barenboim’s Olympic appearance comes a celebration of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s 10th anniversary in a stunning Berlioz recording from the BBC Proms. This recording comes from WEDO’s 2009 Prom, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the West Eastern Divan Orchestra and marking a return to the roots of the orchestra’s conception in Weimar – a place where Liszt championed the works of Berlioz.
Kiri Te Kanawa does well by these songs, avoiding the billowing excesses of sentiment that in other hands (or vocal chords) can make them sound much too soggy. Although Berlioz gathered them all together under the present title, all of the songs were composed at different times for different singers, so they aren't really a cycle at all. I seldom listen to all of them at once, and you should feel free to take them in any order that suits you. "The Death of Cleopatra" is an early cantata that perfectly suits Jessye Norman's stately delivery. She's always at her best playing royalty, and if they're dying in mortal agony, so much the better.
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony. Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.
This 6-CD set captures Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim in some of their most significant recordings together and features the astonishingly beautiful and highly regarded lieder of Hugo Wolf.