The Berliner Philharmoniker’s collaboration with Daniel Barenboim, who made his debut with the orchestra in 1964 as a pianist and five years later as a conductor, has also proven to be extraordinarily productive in terms of discography: their joint recording projects include operas by Mozart and Wagner, Beethoven’s piano concertos, the symphonies of Schubert and Bruckner, and central works by Liszt and Berlioz. A constant in the collaboration of the orchestra with Barenboim, who was appointed its first honorary conductor in 2019, have been Mozart’s piano concertos. “I think Mozart was the only composer who had the perfect combination between seriousness, talent, genius – light-heartedness and facility,” as Barenboim once said of the composer. Although the musician was the soloist in the C major Concerto K. 503 in 1968 under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, he has since performed these works as conductor and pianist in tandem. Mozart’s piano concertos were performed at the Philharmonie and at the Easter Festival in Salzburg, during the orchestra’s legendary first tour to Israel in 1990, at the Mozartfest Berlin and in Waldbühne, New Year’s Eve and European concerts. A complete recording of the repertoire in this formation was only logical. In addition to these sound recordings, the present audiovisual recording of the last eight piano concertos of Mozart is of particular significance. The location of the performances – the concert hall of the beautiful Siemens-Villa in the Lankwitz district of Berlin which was built at the beginning of the 20th century – allowed for an unusually intimate music making. The grand piano stood here in the middle of the relatively small orchestra, so Barenboim always had his fellow musicians in view.
This group of works is considered to be the most beautiful and perfect that Mozart ever wrote, with its perfect balance between soloist and orchestra, between pianistic virtuosity and symphonic instrumental movement, and between their musical-dramatic vitality and chamber music-like interaction. These concertos, which were written in Vienna between 1785 and 1791, include the only two of Mozart’s contributions to the genre in minor keys, the famous Coronation Concerto and the work in B flat major completed in the year of the composer’s death. In it, sadness and the joyful expectation of spring are poignantly combined: Mozart later adapted the theme of the final movement into his song “Komm lieber Mai und mache die Bäume wieder grün” (Come, dear May, and make the trees green again). Mozart himself was one of the foremost pianists of his time and composed almost all of his concerts for his own hands. This is one of the reasons why these works make it possible to enter into a dialogue with the composer, as Daniel Barenboim succeeded in doing in these performances recorded between 1986 and 1989.
For the recordings of the 20th and 27th Piano Concertos, the video direction was incidentally in the hands of Jean-Pierre Ponelle, a close friend of Barenboim’s. Together with Ponelle, who was the definitive opera director at the Salzburg Festival for many years, Barenboim realised an unforgettable production of Tristan und Isolde on the occasion of his debut at the Bayreuth Festival in 1981.