Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wilhelm Backhaus/Karl Bohm Beethoven - Piano Concerto No4/Brahms - Symphony No 2|
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
The Four B's -- Beethoven, Brahms, Backhaus, Böhm
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The main reason to buy this DVD is for the 1967 performance of the Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto with Wilhelm Backhaus, piano, and the Vienna Symphony under Karl Böhm. The only other widely available DVD featuring the legendary Backhaus is an earlier one in which he plays the same concerto with Fritz Knappertsbusch and the Vienna Philharmonic. The present one is superior in most respects -- musically, sonically and visually. Unlike the earlier DVD, this one was filmed in color in a studio and thus there probably was some patching and editing involved; certainly the videography is freer and more inventive. In the earlier live B&W concert DVD one can barely see Backhaus's hands, the sound is in hissy mono, and the VPO, while wonderful, are not given very good sound. In the present DVD we get great closeup views of Backhaus's actual playing -- and my goodness he plays gloriously, especially for an 83-year-old! -- and intelligent videography of the orchestra and of Böhm. Clearly, though, the focus is on Backhaus. He is best-known for his playing of the central Austro-German literature and indeed he recorded the complete Beethoven sonatas twice, once each in mono and stereo, as well as all the concertos. The present performance, like most such by Backhaus, is somewhat understated but deeply felt. Most striking is his way with the second movement -- the one that Liszt is erroneously credited with having said is 'Orpheus taming the wild beasts' (it was actually A. B. Marx who wrote that, and Tovey got it wrong in his attribution to Liszt). Backhaus, with his immense gravitas, never raises his voice in this movement, except slightly in the one clear climax Beethoven wrote, and he 'tames the wild beasts' by virtue of his undeniable authority. He plays the second of Beethoven's known cadenzas in the first movement and one that he himself wrote in the third. Backhaus's cadenza is strikingly Beethovenian -- one is reminded, actually of the virtuosity of the Fifth Concerto's first movement -- while, unlike some modern cadenza writers, never breaking the conventions of early 19th-century piano writing. This is a memorable performance and to be able to see it as well as hear it makes it really treasurable.
The Brahms Second Symphony is the second work on this DVD and it is taken from a live performance of the Vienna Philharmonic under Böhm, filmed at the Grosse Musikvereinssaal, the VPO's home, in 1970. It is vintage playing by the VPO and an eminently sensible, mainstream Böhm effort. Possibly because I was so taken by the Backhaus performance, I was somewhat less so by this one. It is decent Brahms, make no mistake, and the VPO IS the VPO after all. But it also is not an incandescent performance. Part of my reaction may be due to the slightly constricted sound and to the use of quadruple winds, not called for by Brahms but a convention thirty or more years ago and pretty much since abandoned by most orchestras around the world. The best part of the performance is their way with the endearing 'altväterisch' third movement followed by the joyous fourth movement with its hint, so typical of Brahms final movements, of Hungarian gypsy music. The sound is marginally less good than in the Beethoven; I listened in both plain stereo and Dolby 5.1; there is a DTS 5.1 option which I did not sample but considering the date of the recording it is likely that it is not significantly different from the Dolby.
I gave this DVD five stars largely because I think that the Backhaus performance is one to cherish and because I'm sure there are others who will be thrilled with the Brahms.
A must for Backhaus fans and lovers of Beethoven
D. B. J. STEVENSON | 01/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a lovely momento of a great pianist who retained his great skills into his eighties. His friend Bohm gives concentrated support and convinces gloriously in Brahms Symphony no 2. The Beethoven 4th Concerto is of a performance I treasure."
Backhaus plays his favorite concerto
James K. Hanson | Hudson, New York | 12/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Backhaus was one of the first to record the Beethoven G Major, and it was his favorite concerto in a repertoire that ranged from Grieg to Pick-Mangiagalli to Chopin. (He was the first pianist to record the Grieg, by the way, although the poor thing was mangled grotesquely to fit the requirements of acoustic recording). This DVD is a worthy memento of his love for the Beethoven 4th, and of his long-standing professional relationship with Karl Boehm. Nonetheless, it would be remiss of me not to mention the DVD with Knappertsbusch, which is a far finer performance. Admirers of Backhaus (and I am one) will want both, but the Knappertsbusch version is more fluid, more lyrical, more deeply felt. It is in black and white, while the Boehm is in color. For those who don't care about visuals, I recommend the CD version of this piece with Backhaus, the VPO and Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt."