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Classic Archive: Piano Virtuosos
Classic Archive Piano Virtuosos
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2008     2hr 12min

Hungarian dynamo György Cziffra gets top billing in this DVD of BBC concert broadcasts from the early 1960s, which easily could have been titled "Great Romantic Pianists," since almost half of the disc?s 107 minutes includ...  more »


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Movie Details

Creator: Various
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical, Documentary
Studio: Euroarts
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 09/30/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1963
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 12min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Archival Video Footage of Three Pianistic Giants of Yesterye
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD contains studio-recorded video clips from performances by three giants: György Cziffra, Benno Moiseiwitsch and Jorge Bolet. The contents:

Cziffra: All from 1963, BW, mono
Bach/Busoni: Prelude and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 532
Scarlatti: Sonata in A, K101 & Sonata in D, K96
Schumann: Toccata in C, Op. 7
Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6; Polonaise in E, S.219; Grand Galop Chromatique, S.219
Chopin: Polonaise No. 6 in A Flat, Op. 53, 'Heroic'

Moisweiwitsch: BW, mono
Schumann: Träumerei (rec. 1954); Fantasiestücke, Op. 12 (rec. 1954)
Schumann: Kinderszenen (including another performance of Träumerei) (rec. 1963)
Rachmaninoff: Paganini Variations 17-24, with Charles Groves and the Philharmonia Orch. (rec. 1963)

Bolet: Rec. 1962, BW, mono
Albéniz: Triana (from Ibéria, Bk II)
Chopin: Berceuse in D Flat, Op. 57
Liszt: Grand Galop Chromatique, S.219

Cziffra starts with a bombastic (and ugly) improvisation that includes riffs on the Chopin/Liszt 'Maiden's Wish' and the Chopin's C Major Étude, Op. 10, No. 1. It is best to consider this nothing more than a warm-up for what is to come. His nonpareil technique is put at the service of crystal clear Scarlatti, soulful Liszt (the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 is enough to make you swoon with delight), a stunning Heroic Polonaise and the fastest Grand Galop Chromatique I've ever heard. His octaves are simply amazing, not to speak of his repeated notes. It is noted that his version of the GGC is a full minute-and-a-half faster than Bolet's. But this is at the price of some musical coherence. One gapes at the technique, but one misses much of the lyricism in the piece. Still, Bolet's version sounds a little earthbound in comparison.

Moiseiwitsch plays an enchanting 1954 Träumerei in grainy video and slightly distant but otherwise adequate sound. His legato is something to treasure. The clips from 1963, when he was 73 and only a few months before his death, show his technique somewhat eroded; there are more than a few clinkers. But his musicianship is intact and there is some lovely playing, particularly in the less demanding parts of Kinderszenen. The unaccompanied introduction to the Paganini Variation 17 demonstrates why Rachmaninoff thought Moiseiwitsch played his music as well as the composer. Lovely, simply lovely. Unfortunately in the intricacies of the subsequent variations the pianist and orchestra sometimes almost lose touch with each other. This is mitigated, strangely enough, by the very recessed sound of the orchestra. I had never seen Moiseiwitsch on film before and was delighted to put sight to sound. He's been a favorite of mine for years, but I think I'll tend primarily to listen to his audio recordings, particularly those from twenty years or so earlier, rather than watch these clips.

Bolet plays an evocative 'Triana' from 'Ibéria' and it makes me wish he had filmed more of Albéniz's masterpiece. His Chopin is suave and one marvels at his legato and singing tone. As I said before, the Grand Galop Chromatique, when seen and heard alongside that of Cziffra, seems a bit prosaic but I think if one heard it alone one would not have that impression. It's just that Cziffra's sizzles, for all it blurs the piece's musical line. Bolet's approach to Liszt was always more subtle than Cziffra's and there is room for both approaches.

This DVD is for ardent pianophiles, particularly those who have curiosity and/or reverence for pianists of the past.

Running time: 107mins; Format: NTSC 4:3; Sound: Mono; Subtitles in French, German -- there is very little spoken narration but what there is is in BBC English; Region Code: 0 (Worldwide)

Scott Morrison"
Great Pianism!
C. Scott Harrison | 11/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There were only a tiny handful of true virtuoso pianists of the 20th century. Cziffra was one of them(Bolet wasn't a slouch either!). This DVD is a must for pianists. His inprovisation at the beginning is stunning. The Gypsy pianist lives on!!"