If Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas are classical music's New Testament, Daniel Barenboim is turning us all into his disciples. Special seating has been installed for those queuing for returns, and the standing ovations are extraordinary: these things usually start with a few groupies, then others gradually haul themselves up, but with Barenboim, the whole hall is on its feet in a trice. And I can't recall a musical series with so many big- and small-screen stars attending night after night. This disarmingly modest man has become a cultural messiah.
Apart from the fact that I wouldn't really describe Barenboim as 'disarmingly modest' (having interviewed him a couple of times), what I can't quite get my head around is the idea that this is being regarded as something new. I learned all the Beethoven sonatas - by ear - as an insomniac teenage piano-nut with a turntable, headphones and the LPs of Barenboim's Complete Beethoven Sonatas on EMI, recorded back in the late 1960s. Our Danny was in his twenties. They are stupendous. When I wasn't listening to him, I was listening to Schnabel, who was also revelatory - but it was Barenboim who grabbed the imagination's heart-strings from note no.1; somehow one sensed his identification with every aspect of Beethoven, from the profound mysticism to the humour, from the personal tragedy to the great humanitarian idealism. And now, if Beethoven is the most idealistic composer who ever lived, he could have no better match than Barenboim.
If you can't get into the concerts, just have a listen to those discs.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 9.15am: Intermezzo offers some advice on how to (try to) get in.