West-Eastern Divan Orchestra / Barenboim review – a glorious Quixote to take your breath away
Royal Festival Hall, London
Daniel Barenboim paid tribute to his first wife, Jacqueline du Pré, with an unmatched live performance of Strauss’s Don Quixote, featuring a sublime Kian Soltani on cello
This wonderful concert was the first of a pair given by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to raise funds for the MS Society in tribute to Barenboim’s first wife, Jacqueline du Pré, who died 30 years ago this month. The evening began with extracts from Christopher Nupen’s film Jacqueline du Pré: A Gift Beyond Words, a celebration of her talent and instinctive musicianship, recently shown on BBC Four. The programme opened, meanwhile, with Strauss’s Don Quixote – not the first work, perhaps, that comes to mind when du Pré is mentioned, though her recording (with Adrian Boult conducting) ranks among the greatest.
Strauss’s tone poem, with its cello and viola solos representing Quixote and Sancho Panza respectively, is a bittersweet negotiation of the boundaries between illusion and reality, its point being that the Don’s chivalric fantasies have an integrity that transcends the mundane world around him. Barenboim’s interpretation, gloriously played by the orchestra of Israeli and Arab musicians he founded and has nurtured, was beautiful in its sad wit, emotional veracity and attention to detail.