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Whether from the piano stool or podium, Daniel Barenboim is a sympathetic and natural accompanist / THE CLASSIC REVIEW

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This new album by Decca includes two pieces Barenboim has recorded before, as part of his Elgar series with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in the mid to late 1970. In his older, impressive, and often overlooked version of "Sea Pictures" with the LPO, Yvonne Minto sang the Mezzo-Soprano role. In this newer Sea Pictures Barenboim is joined by mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča, conducting the Staatskapelle Berlin, as in his previous recordings for the current series, which included Symphonies 1 and 2, the Cello Concerto, and "The Dream Of Gerontius".

Whether from the piano stool or podium, Barenboim is a sympathetic and natural accompanist. As in other recent Concerto releases, including with cellist Kian Soltani (reviewed here), the orchestral playing is carefully controlled, allowing soloist Elīna Garanča to shine. Barenboim refocuses and adjusts the orchestral details from his previous recording with Minton, giving Garanča a slightly different sound. The orchestral phrases are better understood and the articulation is more rounded, with commendable playing from Staatskapelle Berlin.

These live Berlin recordings don't capture all the orchestral features in the same detail as neither of Barenboim's previous renditions. The bassoon, cello, and violin solos come across well in Falstaff, but the woodwind in Sea Pictures, especially in the denser passages, lack clear definition. Occasional audience intrusion in Falstaff is noticeable, but doesn't detract from this insightful and pleasing interpretation.

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