What Barenboim did in lockdown

What Barenboim did in lockdown


norman lebrecht

September 11, 2020

He recorded the 32 Beethoven sonatas.


It’s the third or fourth time.

He says: I was delighted that, thanks to Deutsche Grammophon and its partners, hundreds of thousands of listeners around the world were able to share in the live-streamed concerts we gave in April from the Pierre Boulez Saal. To have the chance to record Beethoven’s sonatas so soon after for the Yellow Label felt like the ideal response to the pandemic. At no point during the last fifty years has there been a period when I’ve had time to spend three whole months just playing the piano.’

Out next month.


  • John Rook says:

    The man is incorrigible. Seriously, how does he do it?

  • James McCarty says:

    Did he use his straight-strung piano by Chris Maene?

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Why not? Barenboim used his “Barenboim” piano for this 2020 clip of a Chopin etude at the Pierre Boulez Sall.

      There is room for optimism about this cycle: maybe “three whole months just playing the piano” for the first time in fifty years will have helped Barenboim address the rough edges of his playing, and helped bring out the better sides of his artistry, which are pure gold.

  • Tom says:

    I wonder if this was recorded on Barenboim’s not-so-well-sounding own instrument.

  • Eyal Braun says:

    This is his fourth time. He did it for EMI in the late 60s, for DG in the early 80th, and a live cycle for Decca in 2007 which was also released in DVD for EMI.

  • Schoenberglover says:

    He’s an amazing talent & indefatigable musician but I don’t see what’s so good about his piano-playing nowadays. Over-pedalling to cover mistakes, slowing down difficult passages. I get the sense that it’s more about him than the music of the great composers he’s playing and most of the time don’t have enough time to practise because he’s too busy.
    I’d much rather listen to other pianists give fresh & illuminating accounts of standard repertoire. Having said that what he’s done for orchestral music & opera through his conducting and music education are very admirable. He should focus on the latter two in the next few years rather continue to give car-crash performances of Beethoven sonatas, Bartók or Brahms concertos.

  • Y2K says:

    Another complete set of Beethoven piano sonatas? My goodness. And one wonders why classical music is in such a poor state.

  • Jack says:

    I guess an old dog can’t learn new tricks [or new repertoire].

  • Player says:

    I have to say, Daniel Barenboim has been an inspirational figure during this period: indefatigable. A true cultural leader. Getting on with it. Playing sonatas, conducting orchestras, indoors and outdoors. A Beethoven Ninth last weekend, and a concert to celebrate the Staatsoper in Berlin this evening. What a man!

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    From DG’s press release, “Scheduled for international release on 30 October 2020, his fifth complete survey of the sonatas arose from a period of deep immersion in Beethoven’s scores, made possible by the cancellation of public concerts because of the coronavirus pandemic”.

    I think the DVD set on EMI were different from the Decca set. So we have an EMI CD set, a first DG set, an EMI DVD set, a Decca CD set and now a second DG CD set.

    And I thought it was Karajan who kept recording the same pieces repeatedly.

    • Edgar Self says:

      Karajan reportedly accounted at one time for 40% of Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft’s gross income. Connection?

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I’m not sure what you mean by “connection”, dear Edgar, but I do not recall any instance (on recordings, anyway) where Barenboim performed with Karajan.
        Karajan was indeed a money maker for DGG (and EMI and Decca), but that should not obscure the fact that he was a brilliant musician and conductor, truly one of the greatest of the 20th c.

  • Sick of the same says:

    Annoying and out of touch.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Dead horse…. beating….

  • Alexander T says:

    Yet more Barenboim schlock in all likelihood.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    “ At no point during the last fifty years has there been a period when I’ve had time to spend three whole months just playing the piano.”

    Easily the most extravagantly absurd utterance from a pianist — indeed, from any instrumentalist — that I’ve heard or read during the past half-century.
    And Maestro Barenboim stands out against fierce competition.

  • Raymond says:

    The live cycle on DVD is absolutely riveting.

  • F. P. Walter says:

    Not to mention that he’s also recorded Bach’s WTC, all the Mozart piano concertos, all the Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner symphonies, plus TWO different productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen!

    Even his old mentor Rubinstein didn’t rack up such an outlandish litany of achievements. Surely the man’s unique.

  • Fred says:

    I think it’s great Barenboim has recorded another Beethoven Piano Sonata cycle, perhaps he will record another Mozart Pn Cn cycle as well. One can never have too many recordings of this celestial music,

  • Gustavo says:

    He belongs in isolation (with a body cam).

  • Edgar Self says:

    “A man can’t play skat all day.” — Richard Strauss, asked why he continued to write operas.

  • Piano fan says:

    The world does NOT need yet another set of Beethoven Sonatas and CERTAINLY not from Barenboim. Hard pass.

  • Stephen Gould says:

    I was never a great fan of Barenboim the recording pianist (aside from his Diabelli vars and the violin concerto arranged for piano), but Barenboim the concert performer was in times past a thing of wonder.

  • John Humphreys says:

    Best left in the drawer. Why degrade our collective memory of what he was capable of? A towering musician of course but this diminishes his reputation.