Beethoven’s music is as valid today as it has always been, says conductor, pianist, teacher and peacemaker Daniel Barenboim.
Daniel Barenboim’s experience of helping Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs find common ground with each other is mirrored in his view of Beethoven’s music.
“It is about finding the line of most – not least – resistance. It is about not looking for the easy way out. This is why the strife is very much a part of the expression required of his music.”
Barenboim tell Classic FM this in the minutes following his performance of Brahms’s Symphony No.1 with the Berlin Philharmonic at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.
The music is by Brahms but in its scale and vision, and in its resolution of innumerable inner conflicts, it could as easily be by Beethoven.
“Great music of former centuries is not the music of the past, in the same way Shakespeare’s plays are not the theatre of the past. But what these great works tell us depends on us – what place we give this great music in our society.
“The Brahms symphony we have just played, you cannot say it has no bearing on our lives today. The musicians gave every drop of their blood to playing it so in that respect, all great music is very much a contemporary experience.”
Since he was a boy in Buenos Aires, Barenboim’s experience has embraced the music of Beethoven.
“My earliest recollection of his music is hearing Arthur Rubinstein play the Appassionata Piano Sonata. I must have been six. Two years later I performed my first Beethoven, the G major Sonata, Op.14, No.2, in public. I played it from memory; it is easier when you are a young man than when you are 67…”
This long association with the great composer has allowed him an appreciation of Beethoven’s other quality – his quiet introspection.
“Beethoven has been stereotyped as this mad titan but the most wonderful moments in his music are the dolce ones, the moments of sweet expression, precisely because they are in contrast with the grumpy sections.”
Beethoven – the grumpy composer with a nice side. It says it all, really.
Barenboim plays Beethoven
Beethoven (CD) Complete Piano Sonatas
Barenboim recorded this set in the 1960s when it acquired instant cult status. A must-have in your collection.
EMI Classics 572 9122
Barenboim on Beethoven (DVD) The Masterclasses
Barenboim coaches some of the world’s great young artists in this fascinating film.
EMI Classics 504 8909
Beethoven (Blu-ray) Piano Concertos Nos 1-5
Recorded live in 2007 with the Staatskapelle Berlin in Blu-ray sound and definition.
Medici Arts 205 6774