Classical Session: Daniel Barenboim (Dvořák)

Classical Session: Daniel Barenboim (Dvořák)

In his long and distinguished career as conductor and pianist, Daniel Barenboim has recorded much of the piano repertoire—but never the solo piano music of Dvořák. Until now. In his exclusive Classical Session, Barenboim explores two of the 19th-century Czech composer’s beautiful miniatures, an opportunity he describes to Apple Music as “such a treat.” Originally composed as a collection of “New Scottish Dances,” Dvořák’s cycle of eight short piano pieces has, in truth, little to do with either Scotland or indeed its dances. “Common to all of them are the pentatonic melodies so often found in Dvořák’s American works,” reveals Barenboim, alluding to the years the composer spent in the US writing works such as the “New World” Symphony and the “American” String Quartet. “Researchers are still divided as to whether they should be attributed more to the influences of American Indian music, to spirituals, or to the folk music of Irish and Scottish immigrants that Dvořák heard in New York,” he adds. No matter their provenance, Dvořák’s Humoresques, as they were eventually named, are full of incredible variety. “Although the name suggests that the pieces are humorous and cheerful, they’re also characterized by melancholic passages,” explains Barenboim, “so do listen out for those.” Humoresque No. 1 is full of romantic ardor, its major-key middle sections brief yet delightful contrasts to the full-blooded passion. No. 3, meanwhile, is altogether more restrained and intimate, reminiscent of Edvard Grieg’s gentler Lyric Pieces in its sweet innocence.And to help bring these two pieces to vibrant life, Barenboim recorded his Classical Session at the spectacular Pierre Boulez Saal chamber venue in Berlin. “The acoustic is spectacular,” he says, “truly the perfect surroundings for a recording.”

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