Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
A CD & a separate DVD of the same performances. Why?
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 01/22/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One questions the production decisions of this issue (although the performances themselves are excellent, by and large). That's because this is a set that includes an audio CD AND a separate DVD of precisely the same material: Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, played by pianist Friedrich Gulda with George Szell conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, recorded live in black & white for Austrian television in 1966; and the Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Gulda playing alone, recorded live in 1964. I'm not able to figure out why we need both. But perhaps there are some who would want both formats. And, of course, the set is offered at slightly more than the price of a CD alone, so that's something. Andante has been releasing lots of archival material not otherwise available with the CD (or DVD) packaged in a sleeve that is bound into a booklet with hard covers. Actual pertinent written material, though, is fairly skimpy. In this case there is a so-so essay by Gottfried Kraus in three languages. And almost half the booklet is an elaborate catalog of Andante's other similar releases. In other words, one doesn't as much as one might expect for all the elaborate presentation.
Still, these are excellent performances and it is particularly nice to have video footage of Gulda and Szell and the VPO playing in the Musikverein. Gulda is in excellent form. His playing is impeccable, sensitive, Classical in style. The VPO is not having one of its better days however. There are multiple bobbles and tuning problems along the way. Especially noticeable is the horn clam toward the end of the first movement. Wind tuning is dicey at times. And Gulda's Bösendorfer begins to get out of tune in the mid-range towards the end of the concerto. (It was recorded in June, so maybe the hall being hot and humid accounts for some of the tuning issues.) Another very odd thing--although I'd never seen Szell conduct, live, before, and perhaps he was just this way--is that there seems to be almost no contact between Szell and his soloist. I could not discern a single time that they made eye contact or even glanced in the other's direction. Yet, they did seem to have the same Classically restrained approach to this most dramatic of Beethoven's concerti. An interesting take. Szell also seems impatient with the orchestra's necessary retuning between the concerto's first and second movements, and actually raps peremptorily with his baton on his music stand to get them going again.
I had never seen Gulda live before, even though he was one of my pianistic heroes in my youth. I was interested to see that he has huge hands and that he looks a good deal older than his mid-thirties. He hunches and crouches over the keyboard like a bird of prey; his intense concentration is palpable.
The Bach was recorded two years earlier, in 1964. This is strangely in contrast to the Beethoven in that it is a rather Romantic approach, with dramatic contrasts and some almost willful tempi variations. We must remember that he was playing before the current huge interest in historically-informed performance practice of Baroque music and possibly his approach is not much different from what others were doing at the time. And it is an exciting performance. Again, it is absent dropped notes.
I cannot recommend this CD/DVD combo very highly, but there may be some for whom, like me, Gulda has been an influential figure, or for whom seeing Szell conduct would be of interest.
Phenonmenal performances fortunately captured on video
Abel | Hong Kong | 09/03/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Part one of the recordings was made in 1966 at the Musikverein, in black and white format.
I disagree that Szell and Gulda did not have any contact during the performance of the Concerto No. 5 (Emperor)of Beethoven.
In fact, it is a marvel that Szell and Gulda had such a complete collaboration. Whenever there was any significant dynamic or rhythmic change, both conductor and soloist responded to the music virtually together without the need for any eye contact - the score was the only guide.
Seldom can one see a collaboration in a concerto piece that has such a high level of synchronisation between the conductor and the soloist. While the VPO might not have been in its best form, both Szell and Gulda were alert and highly concentrated.
The pianism of Friedrich Gulda in the No. 5 Concerto was really jaw-dropping, and his level of concentration, insight of the score, and responsiveness to the entire performing body really set the ultimate standard of concerto performance.
In fact, you never see Gulda banging on the keyboard as other great maestros would do. His hands did not even seem to be moving beyond the palm - the wrists were entirely free and seemed tensionless. The fingers were unbelievably sprightly and powerful.
It is a big shame that Gulda did not leave more videos of his performances in his prime, and for that matter, this recording, in BOTH the CD and DVD format, is invaluable for anyone seriously interested in piano playing."