Johannes BRAHMS, Frédéric CHOPIN,
Jaccqueline du Pré
('cello) Daniel Barenboim
EMI double fforte
CZS 5 74203 2 (2CDs)
Collectors, du Pré fans and cello-fanciers who do not have these famous
recordings in their collections should not hesitate to acquire this low-priced
2 CD set without delay. The new digital remastering has improved the original
analogue sound considerably, and there is marginally greater warmth over
previous CD incarnations.
In many ways the hero in these performances in Daniel Barenboim who in 1968
(the two Brahms Sonatas) and in 1972 (Chopin and Franck) was at the height
of his pianistic powers - before conducting and an increasingly conservative
approach to music-making began to lower the temperature of his readings.
His passionate playing perfectly matches du Pré's own 'devil may care'
style and one can read his own personal feelings towards his partner in almost
The only slight disappointment in these performances remains Brahms first
'Cello Sonata Op.38 where a slightly off-form du Pré is not helped
by the rather sharp 'cello sound provided by the EMI engineer and the tendency
for the piano to overwhelm. That fine EMI technician Robert 'Bob' Gooch was
given a rare outing in the second Sonata and suddenly everything comes to
life with magnificent piano/'cello balance encouraging the players to give
an almost overwhelming account. Du Pré exhibits her wonderful control
of colour to very special effect.
The tragic onset of multiple sclerosis had kept du Pré from her instrument
throughout much of 1971, but in December she had a short but miraculous remission
and Barenboim quickly arranged for what were to prove her final recording
sessions. Chopin's Sonata (often considered a Cinderella amongst his works)
received one of its finest performances ever - for many the true worth of
the work only came to light in du Pré's hands. The well-known arrangement
of Franck's violin sonata for 'cello by Delsart contains much virtuoso writing
yet one would hardly know of du Pré's illness on the evidence of this
recording. Where there are errors (including a rather too obviously poor
leap up the fingerboard in the last movement of the Chopin) one is inclined
to believe that they are the fault of poor production and editing rather
than the performer's. Indeed the standard of production in the late sixties
and early seventies at EMI has only been shown to be poor since the introduction
of CD where, nowadays, everything has to be done with so much more care.
LP 'needle noise' and rumble tended to cover 'a multitude of sins' in those
pre-digital days. Now, on CD reissues, there is no hiding place.
But the experience of hearing du Pré and Barenboim at their height
remains, of course, one of the great joys for the collector. Enjoy!