Today’s Wall Street Journal “Sightings” column is about Daniel Barenboim’s new YouTube channel. Here’s an excerpt.
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At 74, Daniel Barenboim is very much in the news. Among other things, he’s released a CD, “On My New Piano,” in which the celebrated pianist-conductor plays the music of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti and Wagner on a brand-new concert grand designed to his own specifications. What’s more, Mr. Barenboim’s latest venture, the Barenboim-Said Academy, a school for music students from the Middle East, recently opened in Berlin, not far from the Berlin State Opera, of which he is the music director. But the most consequential of his current undertakings may prove to be one that so far appears to have received next to no publicity: Mr. Barenboim has just launched his own YouTube channel.
Go to youtube.com and search for “Daniel Barenboim: Five Minutes On…” (no quotation marks). You’ll find there a series of miniature lectures, each one five minutes long or a bit shorter, in which Mr. Barenboim discusses eight familiar works from his repertoire. They include three solos by Beethoven, two by Chopin, one by Liszt and a pair of concertos by Mozart and Brahms. Nothing about “Five Minutes On…” is at all fancy: Mr. Barenboim simply says hello, sits down at the piano and talks about the piece in question, playing a few well-chosen snippets and explaining what you’re hearing in uncomplicated, non-technical language.
The playing is beautiful, of course—Mr. Barenboim is one of the greatest pianists of his generation—but it’s the talk that matters. It turns out that in addition to being a great pianist, Mr. Barenboim also has a knack for getting straight to the point…
What we have here, in other words, is something not unlike what Leonard Bernstein was endeavoring to do in the now-legendary “Young People’s Concerts” that CBS broadcast from 1958 to 1972, all 53 of which can also be viewed on YouTube. But there’s a big difference: Each Young People’s Concert was an hour-long program in which Bernstein spoke in depth about a broad-gauge subject like “What Does Music Mean?” or “What Is Sonata Form?” In addition, the concerts were also public performances in which Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic appeared in front of large audiences consisting mostly of children. Mr. Barenboim’s “Five Minutes On…” lectures, by contrast, are bite-sized snippets that concentrate on a single piece of music, suitable for consumption on a smartphone. They’re meant for adults, not children, and the scale is intimate: Mr. Barenboim could be sitting in your living room, talking to you alone….
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Read the whole thing here.
“Daniel Barenboim: Five Minutes on—Frédéric Chopin—Ballade No. 1 in G-Minor”: