Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Beethoven Piano Concertos 1-5|
Actors: Vladimir Ashkenazy, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Director: Bernard Haitink
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Uni Dist Corp (music) Release Date: 10/04/2007
Beethoven played in the grand style
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 10/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The old way of playing Beethoven's piano concertos involved large orchestras, lots of rubato and a promiscuous use of the pedals that caused a kind of musical haze. The actual notes played were often not as important as the general effect produced. Artur Schnabel's Beethoven comes to mind, at this point. He was renowned for his clinkers and he wasn't averse to a gauzy effect if it promoted his musical argument. Schnabel is considered one of the greatest interpreters of Beethoven's piano music but his style could never be adopted today. Yet there is something produced in the listener by Schnabel's best recordings, a kind of musical ecstasy, that cannot be explained or duplicated. This kind of leading the audience on a mystical journey is no longer in favor, and that's a shame.
These recordings, filmed in March and April 1974 for the BBC, occurred at the tail end of the old performance era and the very start of the new. Vladimir Ashkenazy was a graduate of the same Soviet school of piano playing that produced Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Lazar Berman and a host of others of that era. There are simularities that unite them, including a broad romanticism, a degree of Lisztian showmanship coupled with periods of introspection, powerful technique that occasionally borders on pounding and an intellectual streak that produces some deeply insightful playing. Ashkenazy was younger than the others, more modern in his playing. He is a transitional figure: less rubato, less use of the pedals, cooler and more detached (some would say dry), less romantic and a harbinger of the clean, crisp style of playing of today. On these recordings we hear all of that and more, for this is the youthful Ashkenazy and his Beethoven is more alive, more passionate than his later recordings. It is grand style Beethoven that is no longer played and for which many of us secretly long, at least occasionally.
All of the concertos are here, with the third, fourth and fifth 'The Emperor' sounding most brilliant and persuasive. The third's middle Largo movement is especially emotional. I found it deeply moving, something not usually associated with Ashkenazy. The first and second concertos are given jaunty performances that entertain rather than enlighten. Accompanying Ashkenazy are Bernard Haitink conducting the splendid London Philharmonic. They are arrayed in the old style: vast numbers spread across the stage like an invasion force. Their playing is exemplary. The sound in both the original PCM mono and the Dolby two-track enhanced mono is clean and full, though not as vivid as modern recordings. The piano is recorded in front of the orchestra and is well displayed. Also recorded on this two DVD set are the Leonore overtures 2 & 3, the Egmont overture and the Symphony no.8. The LPO plays beautifully under Haitink. The total time of the two DVDs is 277 minutes.
These are archival releases, digitally remastered, and allowances must be made for the age of these recordings. If you take that into account, you will soon find yourself drawn into this grand style Beethoven and luxuriate in it. You may even wallow, as I did. Strongly recommended for the memories it evokes.
Don't listen to the 1-star reviewer
Dan Marquis | Minneapolis | 01/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To give this DVD one star and say that it "isn't" Beethoven and that Vladimir Ashkenazy "can't play Beethoven" is truly imbecilic. This is one of the great pianists--and one of the great Beethoven pianists--of this or any generation. The sound quality here leaves something to be desired, but the performances are phenomenal. So Mr. Gadgester likes Kempf. Fine. But he completely undercuts himself with his moronic review. Apparently 22 out of 23 people don't believe him either. People need to watch their hyperboles."