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This is Barenboim’s first recording on a piano designed by Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene which has straight-sprung strings (not crossed, as is the norm). Inspired by a visit to Sienna to play Liszt’s restored piano, Barenboim decided to create an instrument that combined the stability, evenness and power of a contemporary instrument with the transparency and colour of Liszt’s piano: the result was the Barenboim-Maene concert grand.

Barenboim playing Scarlatti is another novelty. His script here seems to make the Trio as gentle and beautiful as possible, with rubato, pedals and a decidedly Romantic aesthetic. For the Beethoven element, Barenboim chooses the 32 Variations in C minor, which receive a performance the polar opposite from say, the more objective Gilels. Again Barenboim goes for beauty all the way, coaxing every nuance tenderly, and indeed his piano reacts wonderfully: no textures are blurred in any register. Less successful is Chopin’s Ballade No 1. Unsurprisingly, Barenboim revels in the slower sections, but the occasional rather ungainly stab and patches of unsteadiness make this less than comfortable, especially in the Coda.

It’s a lovely idea to link the Wagner/Liszt march from Parsifal with Liszt’s ‘Funérailles’. The piano sounds superb in the Parsifal excerpt, chords perfectly placed and sweetly toned; it sustains the resonant climax, too. The darkest elements of the piano’s tone possibilities are heard in ‘Funérailles’, beautifully sustained by Barenboim – this is the clear highlight of the recital. The Mephisto Waltz No 1 is a virtuoso close: very wide-ranging emotionally, with plenty of indulgence in the slower moments and plenty of mid-range detail.

Fascinating in terms of the piano; Barenboim himself veers between the inspired and the wayward.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing