Barenboim and Ashkenazy: Feel the tension

Barenboim and Ashkenazy: Feel the tension


norman lebrecht

March 10, 2018

Christopher Nupen’s documentary of the first time the pair played together. Shot at Fairfields Hall, Croydon, in March 1966. An extraordinary performance.

Watch the backstage scenes at 31:00.


  • Una says:

    Don’t you just love the ’60s announcer and the use of the London English language of the day!!! Wonderful, thanks for sharing.

    • Olassus says:

      Yes, London was still English then! Sad to think about …

      And DB and VA were brilliant, absolutely.

      • Hilary says:

        ” London was still English then”
        It still is as far as I’m aware.
        The rather stilted accents and mode of expression (3:49) on display at times doesn’t make me yearn for the past at all.

        • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

          I miss the quality of the spoken English that used to prevail, especially at the BBC; it has gradually deteriorated over the last five decades.

          Oh, Norman, how nice to see that you have at least some appreciation of my father’s playing!!

        • Sue says:

          I guess you prefer the Jamie Oliver style of delivery, innit!!

    • Furtive Wangler says:

      Surprisingly, I can’t find a single English person speaking in the whole film! Admittedly, all the speakers are emulating the correct pronunciation of the time and very convincingly too.

    • Michael Endres says:

      Same here, but I am a bit unsure whether I am still allowed to…

      Needless to say this performance is Mozart at its best.
      Apart from Barenboim, who was a Mozartian par excellence, I have always considered Ashkenazy a first rate Mozart pianist too, and I have particularly cherished his version of the last sonata KV 576, which seems to me unsurpassed until today.

  • Hilary says:

    Dramatic lighting technique 36secs in. Reminds me of those famous photos of Toscanini.

  • Forabetterworld says:

    Another performance where all we are left to is admiring a dead white male composer and two male soloists. Not to forget that Mozart ( music I never much cared about ) composed for an aristocracy that suppressed its people.
    How can one listen to such music under such pretext ? And why does SD promote such chauvinistic nonsense ?
    It’s time that things change, and they will.

    • Croak says:

      What incredible drivel. Please do give us an example of the kind of thing you think we should all be moved by.

    • Paul Davis says:

      Ha Ha! Very good spoof of all the recent proclamations of equality. Wonderful. But you still missed out lots, for instance the forthcoming obligation to be moved by music composed by disabled, black, lesbian dwarves…at the very least. Please correct this omission forthwith.

    • Eric says:

      You really don’t understandMozart. That’s ok when you are dust and forgotten his music will still be played.

    • Leo says:

      You confuse taste and morals.

      Imposing any of the above cannot be done well by arguments but rather by violence. It has indeed been a staple of all totalitarian regimes and ideologies. And so far it hasn’t produced neither artistic nor moral excellence.

      Is that what you want?

    • David Hilton says:

      You also might want to learn what the word ‘chauvinistic’ actually means, especially if you are going to accuse other people of reflecting that quality. It doesn’t mean what you apparently think it does.

    • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

      Do we really need Marxist ideology on a website devoted to high culture?

      • Leo says:

        We don’t need any such extremist ideologies anywhere near culture at all.
        The aspiration to totally subordinate culture and art to this or that political view has done and keeps doing great damage.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Around 27:00 we see them join Fu Ts’ong to celebrate his birthday. They recorded with him Mozart’s Three-Piano Concerto.
    Fu Ts’ong is a very good answer to those who generalize about Asian pianists not having a sense of style.

  • Michael Turner says:

    Okay, let’s cut the crap comments. Yes, Baremboim and Ashkenazy were marvellous, but let’s also talk about the ECO. What a fabulous group they were back then. Lots of familiar faces: Manny Hurwitz, Nona Liddell, Ken Sillito in the 1sts, Anita Lasker in the cellos, Adrian Beers leading the basses. But can anyone fill in some of the other gaps? And didn’t we all love the shot of Fou T’song and his pipe? Interesting too that the ECO opening concert promotion couldn’t fill Fairfield Hall in 1966.

  • Cyril Blair says:

    Pretty funny when Barenboim says “Good luck to you” to Ashkenazy in the middle of the cadenza. 25:35

  • Sharon says:

    I must confess that as a non performer I do not understand performance anxiety in virtuosos or any professional performer for that matter. 90% of the audience would not recognize a technical error much less be able to judge musical interpretation. I guess it has something to do with lack of confidence in oneself.
    I also do not understand why a student who becomes extremely anxious before a performance would choose performing as a profession. Is there something about the performing personality that makes some performers willing to make themselves so miserable?

    • Anon says:

      It’s aspirational art, not accounting.
      Therefore: feelings.

    • mathias broucek says:

      The 10% who do notice the error includes 100% of the people who decide whether the soloist gets booked again!

      • M2N2K says:

        Consequently, it has nothing to do with “lack of confidence in oneself” and everything to do with the fact that the only way to achieve success as a solo performer in classical music is by being as close to perfectionist as possible. Therefore being “miserable” at times does happen quite naturally, whether “willing” or not.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I have to perform in front of an audience as part of my career. And I often still get nervous despite having done it many times before. If I don’t feel a little bit nervous, and think through my performance before I appear before the audience I won’t do a very good job. And even if nobody else particularly notices any mistakes, I will. (Actually, the audience, even if they don’t know exactly what the mistake was, can often tell some mistake was made).

      The issue isn’t really getting nervous beforehand, but making sure it isn’t too disabling.