8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Three Hours of Pure Pleasure,
This review is from: Classic Archive: Murray Perahia - Beethoven, the Complete Piano Concertos (DVD)
I don't know whether this collection of 1988 concert performances of all the Beethoven piano concertos by Murray Perahia and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner was ever available on VHS, but I'm certainly glad it came along now on DVD. It was originally recorded for broadcast of BBC-TV -- can you imagine such a thing on American PBS? -- and is recorded in the sound and sight of the time. It has been remastered but there is still clear evidence aurally that it came from twenty years ago. And the Farrah Faucett hairdos and day-glo colors of the dresses of the female members of the ASMF are a hoot. But the performances themselves more than make up for any anachronisms or dated technical issues. Perahia is one of the true aristocrats of the piano and his playing is magnificent. His universally lauded beauty of tone is in evidence, but just as much is his obvious joy in the performance of this music, especially in the faster movements. I love how he swings the 'Tico Tico' passage in the rondo of the First Concerto, and his slight smile while playing the devil out of the finale of the Second Concerto betrays his own utter joy at doing so. Just as impressive is his manner with the more dramatic passages. The first movement of the C Minor Concerto is given the full weight of its drama. The monster first movement cadenza -- Beethoven's own -- in the First Concerto is as dramatic as any I've ever heard.
When we get to the second disc -- yes, you get two DVDs for less than $30! -- we get to what are generally considered the acme of Beethoven's piano concerto writing and we get Perahia at his best. The Fourth in particular is filled with poetry and passion. The solo piano opening of the first movement makes one hold one's breath with its serene beauty. The conversation (or perhaps one should say the struggle) between piano and the orchestra in the second movement is narrative drama at its best. The Emperor Concerto is played with panache by both pianist and orchestra. Perahia's rhythmic incisiveness is matched by that of Marriner's ASMF. The exuberance I felt at the end of the disc made me want to start with DVD 1 all over again.
This is an Olympian set and I recommend it highly. However, if you're after absolutely up-to-date sight and sound you probably ought to look elsewhere. But if you are, like I, a fan of Perahia, someone who responds to his velvety tone and steely rhythmic spine, then this is not to be missed.
Running time: DVD1=103mins, DVD2=73mins; Format NTSC 4:3; Sound: PCM Stereo; Region code: 0 (worldwide). The booklet simply lists tracks and times; no other text. Recorded Royal Festival Hall, London, 1988.
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Initial post: Jun 5, 2009 5:39:51 PM PDT
D. DEGEORGE says:
Thank you for your perceptive and accurate review. You are right about the wonderful performances; and you take note of some technical issues, which you properly relegate to near unimportance. (I will write my own review to detail the technical issues; but to be frank, there is only one of real importance; and that is that the set is incorrectly labeled as stereo. While it is true that there are 2 PCM channels, unfortunately they are identical; so in reality this is a monophonic release, which I do not think is justified by its 1988 vintage; my recollection is that stereo TV was fairly predominant at that point.)
My only other, and very slight, disagreement with you is regarding the likelihood of such an event's appearing on PBS. I do agree that there is rather less chance of seeing something like this here than there is in the U.K.; however, I wouldn't slam PBS too much; their Live from Lincoln Center telecasts feature at least a few concerts per year, in addition to ballets & other special events; and the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts are a real treasure.
As you point out, it is fairly rare, especially in the U. S., to be able to witness live concerts in one's TV room; so I'll just incidentally point out a fantastic new option: the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall. They stream about three concerts per month, live in high-definition and beautiful sound over the Internet.The only drawbacks are that they are a little pricey and that if one "tunes in" for the live streaming, which is very exciting, one runs the risk of losing the signal; so it's better to play it safe and watch from their archives.
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