Staatskapelle Berlin - Daniel Barenboim - Yefim Bronfman, Salle Pleyel in Paris, February 6 2011
I believe you already noticed my admiration for Daniel Barenboim, his extraordinary talent and his accomplishment as a pianist and musician, a formidable Wagnerian conductor -- no one can pull that sound from the score of Tristan und Isolde like he does when conducting his Staatskapelle Berlin, the orchestra that came to Paris with their dear chef.
When Barenboim comes in Paris Pleyel is regularly packed with people of all age, and last Sunday was not exception to that rule. Staatskapelle actually spent the weekend at Pleyel, performing a cleverly tailored program split in two days: day 1 - Piano Concerto No.1 by Bartók, Symphony No.5 by Tchaikovsky; day 2 - Piano Concerto No.2 by Bartók, Symphony No.6 by Tchaikovsky. Each day you have a not-so-often-performed Bartók, combined with a familiar Tchaiko-Symphony. That formula should satisfy most of the public.
I was unfortunately unable to attend the first but caught the second concert. Clearly I was more interested in Bartók. Barenboim, a great pianist himself, knows how to tune properly the orchestra to give a good support to piano soloist, and knows the right moment to let the orchestra fly to eventually return the ball back to the soloist. Those passages are particularly interesting in this piece -- piece which makes you realize once again how great the genius of Béla Bartók was - and still is. He was steam-rolling through the world of classical music, introducing his modernity that you can recognize in many contemporary composers.
Piano soloist of the day was Yefim Bronfman who is mostly famous for his renditions of the Piano Concertos by Rachmaninoff, but his Bartók was truly brilliant too. I did not find a YT video with him performing Concerto No.2, but I found one with complete Concerto No.1 (filmed in Tokyo, 1994)
[As an encore Bronfman and Barenboim performed a piece for 4 hands - certainly very well known, but I did not know the name :( ]