Review: Inon Barnatan Plays Brahms Piano Concerto with Minnesota Orchestra
At Minnesota Orchestra, it was piano vs. cellphone
REVIEW: Ultimately, Inon Barnatan emerged victorious in a gripping Brahms concerto.
By Terry Blain
“His account of the opening movement was wonderfully imperious, fired by the muscular virtuosity that Brahms’ writing needs. His tensile trilling bristled with emotional intensity, and there was rage and splendor mingled in the thunderous octave outbursts heralding the movement’s conclusion. Yet the pianist is a poet, too, and caught the undertow of tragedy in the music, which Brahms wrote in response to news of his friend Schumann’s attempted suicide. The beautiful Adagio breathed poetry, too, as Barnatan distilled an aching sense of tenderness from a movement Brahms intended as “a lovely portrait” of Schumann’s wife, Clara. Barnatan’s glowing tonal quality was especially notable, with a delectable balancing of chords and voices between the hands and fingers. The finale avoided gruffness and bluster, for once plausibly suggesting the eventual triumph of the individual over the force of heavy circumstance.”
Minnesota Orchestra review: Pianist Barnatan fuels emotion that drives rewarding concert
By Rob Hubbard
“But the individual who shone most brightly was Barnatan. It was clear why this pianist’s career has really taken flight over the past few years. His was a subtle, transfixing take on the Brahms concerto, a work full of incredulous sorrow at learning of the attempted suicide of the composer’s mentor, Robert Schumann, and commiserating comfort for his wife, the piano virtuoso Clara Schumann. Bignamini and the orchestra gave the gale-force grief of the concerto’s opening full voice before Barnatan responded with gentle melancholy, his solos bearing an air of asserting dignity amid distress. Most admirable was the pianist’s skilled way of subtly shepherding listeners from one mood to another over the course of an interlude. Everything flowed splendidly, each shift nuanced. This impression was strongest in the earnest Adagio movement, full of the warm affection and heartfelt reassurance that Brahms made clear was directed at Clara Schumann. Each of Barnatan’s soliloquies was a melancholy meditation, sweet, sad and ultimately soothing. And his gift for executing smooth transitions was never more evident than on the many moods of the finale, climaxing in a flurry of fast phrases exchanged with the orchestra. A well-deserved standing ovation inspired an encore, a Brahms Intermezzo with echoes of the Adagio, both emotionally and in Barnatan’s delicate touch.”