Mozart And The Sound Of Nepotism

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

MOZART_Barenboim-Family_DG_ClassicsToday_jens-f-laurson_classical-critic

Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 7

Cole Porter knew. Birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it. The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it. Some Argentines, with means, do it. People say in Boston, even beans do it: Cynics may call it nepotism, but good fathers think ahead. If you are a famous musician with intimations of mortality and your young ‘uns haven’t made a name for themselves on their own merits yet, force it. Include them in your programs; squeeze them onto your CDs. Make your influence count. Back then it was Emil Gilels and Menuhin. Vladimir Ashkenazy tries. Alfred Brendel did. Very recently we have had Maurizio Pollini heave his son onto a DG Debussy recital. And here’s Daniel Barenboim and his son and his orchestra’s members in his new concert hall, using Mozart to that end.

The applause suggests it worked in concert, but on disc the result is at best a decent, rarely exciting, piano-heavy, string-iffy rendition of the two Mozart Piano Quartets in a notably live recording that may be better suited for Barenboim devotees than Mozart-lovers. The latter will be better served with classic recordings by the Nash Ensemble, the Beaux Arts Trio (with Bruno Giuranna), the Mozartean Players (HIP), and select golden oldies like those of the Pro Arte Piano Quartet, the Amadeus Quartet (Walter Klien), and the Griller String Quartet (Clifford Curzon).

The former will appreciate the power-rushed finale of K. 478, with the keyboard in the driver’s seat. They will happily forgive the unsubtle violin playing. Not all is mediocre, granted: The pulse that Barenboim lays beneath the swift opening of K. 493 is more pliable than most (the fine Giuranna is a notable exception), rhythmically looser than one might expect. Occasional touches in the piano part are rendered with lavish care that suggest the sea of talent at Barenboim’s disposal–but only enhance the contrast with the careless, indulgent run-through that the foursome suggests elsewhere.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Giuranna/Beaux Arts Trio (Philips/Decca); Mozartean Players (Harmonia Mundi); Penetier/Ysaÿe Quartet (Ysaÿe Records); Zacharias, F.P. Zimmermann et al. (EMI); Klien/Amadeus Quartet (DG)

  • Daniel Barenboim (piano); Michael Barenboim (violin); Yulia Deyneka (viola); Kian Soltani (cello)

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