When Barenboim is at his best, he comes across as exactly what he is, the world's most talented performing musician. No conductor, save Furtwangler and maybe Eugen Jochum could make the climax to Bruckner's fifth symphony so exciting. Unfortunately, being the world's greatest musician was never enough for him. Barenboim clearly wants nothing less than to be the Emperor of Classical Music. What amazes is how close he's come to this dream when he so often gives such erratic results. Why would Barenboim want anything more than the Berlin Staatskapelle, the East-West Divan and to give piano recitals? Those alone would be enough to write his page in music history, and it probably be a far more effective way to write it than turning up at La Scala and the Berlin/Vienna Philharmonics every other month. Nothing poisons musicianship like coveting big jobs for which you're not cut out. But this performance, like so much else he does with the underrated Staatskapelle Berlin, is 100x more exciting than anything he did in Chicago.
(ah hell, here's the Furtwangler version of Bruckner 5 from the exact same point. Furtwangler never gave a more exciting performance than this, and perhaps nobody else did either.)