"I was attracted by Heifetz and also by Piatigorsky: I have a Rubinstein DVD conducted by Andre Previn which was dull and one just doesn't feel like going back to it. To my surprise, my rating is almost the other way round. Runbinstein played this concerto rather beautifully, even poetically albeit the culmination of the climax is not quite forceful: it's more like blank verse than anything else. His touches are well depicted by the photographer and the sound is nice. His Beethoven Concertos were the ones which I used to listen most often after all. Piatigorsky is very musical. He was so involved when he played, totally inspired by the music that he was playing. I prefer him to Rostropovich.The recorded sound of Heifetz here is totally distorted particularly his Mendelssohn and Debussy: worse than most historical recordings and simply far from appealing. The vision is much better though and at one point there is even an aeriel view which shows exactly his fingering/vibrato. His Hora Staccato made up quite a bit. Here we see a palette of colours and Heifetz certainly played with a lot of emotions. As far as Heifetz's footage is concerned and particularly Piatigorsky, we don't have much choice. Hora Staccato and Walton alone are worthy of your money and then you will also have Rubinstein's Beethoven # 4 the beauty of which comes really as a surprise."
Three Titans--Athletic, Authoritative, Incomparable
F. P. Walter | Albuquerque, NM | 08/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These three superstars performed and recorded together in various combinations and permutations from the 1930s into the 1960s, and it was during their joint appearances at the Ravinia Festival in the fifties that some whizzbang reporter headlined them as "The Million Dollar Trio." Their performances here, however, are solo turns. Decked out in a white dinner jacket, Heifetz recorded his three contributions in 1949 before a studio audience on the Bell Telephone Hour. At times the picture is smudged and grainy, and you'll hear a fair amount of strident, wavery sound (plus some rough, tough low notes that are Heifetz's own doing). But don't ask questions -- this is one of comparatively few videos by this undisputed 20th century phenomenon, and all of his trademark virtues are here in force: bright, firm tone, athletic bowing, dashing fingerwork. The result is a rousing, high-octane chase through the Mendelssohn first movement plus two choice encores -- though, in a hokey popularizing touch during Debussy's "Girl with the Flaxen Hair," the camera overlays shots of an actual hairbrushing cutie. Did it play well in Peoria?
Piatigorsky's outing is more soberly conceived, being a straightforward document of the 1957 London premiere of Walton's cello concerto -- which the performer himself had commissioned. Despite some edge blurring, the picture is improved over the Heifetz entries, ditto the recorded sound, though there are occasional fadings, burbles, and split-second lacunae -- but Piatigorsky's authority and the video's historical value are incontestable. (All the same, admirers of both this great cellist and this haunting concerto will automatically want to acquire the official studio recording of the piece, recorded just a fortnight earlier with Munch and the Boston Symphony and still available as RCA 61498. The CD features tidier intonation from Piatigorsky in the middle movement plus pioneering stereophonic sound that is startlingly vibrant, spacious, and airy throughout.)
Finally we get Rubinstein, arguably the ultimate performer -- for his astonishing stamina, huge sound, technical durability, and magical ability to deliver the goods year in and year out, he was the greatest big-hall pianist of them all. He's in his 80th year here, yet the mechanism is still in miraculous shape: fleet tempos, note-perfect running passages, incomparable mezza voce playing, and his unique use of the una corda pedal not merely to soften the tone but to alter its timbre -- cantabile passages gleam like sudden shafts of moonlight. Finally, thanks to his matchless command of natural weight principles, we not only hear a robust, sweeping line throughout (just right for middle-period Beethoven), but there are marvelous special effects -- such as the comic surprise of Rubinstein's deep, reverberent octaves at the outset of the 3rd movement cadenza. No living pianist comes close to approximating this kind of mastery. In short, you'll never hear a more engrossing Beethoven 4th, and both the picture and the monaural sound (class of '67) have clarity and range. Which is also true of Rubinstein's signature encore, the Chopin A-flat Polonaise: its performance here has the most majesty, technical control, and legato detailing of the four different versions (!) currently available by this performer on DVD. "
Poor quality of picture and sound
BLee | 07/08/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I had previously purchased 4 EMI classics DVD's and was satisfied with all. Thus I was very disappointed by the poor sound and picture quality on this DVD and have returned it. The Heifetz Mendelssohn is the worst. The Rubinstein Beethoven is better, but the muted sound of the orchestra in the Beethoven is not good. The Piatigorsky Walton has some bad picture problems near the beginning, but overall the picture is OK (not great, however), while the sound varies. There is no point in buying any of these DVD's just for the sound, in my opinion. If the picture is bad, don't buy. And if the sound is bad, too, then definitely don't buy."
Truly, truly awesome
teva_man | United States | 02/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one amazing DVD. I loved every minute of it. The only thing I regret is that there wasn't any footage of the short-lived R-H-P trio playing (although the Rubinstein Kultur DVD does...but I think this is the only other one; Rubinstein and Heifetz never saw eye-to-eye and did not speak after about 1955). Heifetz's portion of this DVD is unjustly brief, great though it is. I've heard the Bell Telephone Hour recordings for years and never knew they were filmed (I didn't grow up during that time, so never saw them live either.) Kinda wish the whole Mendelssohn had been included, not just Mvt. 1. The Debussy "Flaxen Hair" is great - I doubt it's been played with orchestra since this recording - but eegads, the flaxen-haired girl shown superimposed is fake-brushing her hair. Weird stuff. But the ensuing Dinicu "Hora Staccato", with Heifetz's impeccable up and down bow staccato, makes up for it. Piatigorsky is at his usual best in the Walton, and this was one of the first performances of it (made like 1 month after the premiere performance.) Like the violin concerto (written for Heifetz), the melodies are sad and beautiful - but the cello concerto has a much more prominent cadenza. Piatigorsky was one of the several best cellists when it came to expression and making the instrument speak to the listener, and Walton undoubtedly knew this when he wrote the concerto. You can tell that the audience was spellbound. Rubinstein was an old man of 80 when he played this live performance of the Beethoven Concerto #4 and the Chopin A-flat major Polonaise, but this is irrelevant. This was surely one of his best concerts. The Beethoven #4 is one of those concertos that, when performed extremely well, just leaves the listener glad that they're alive. Case in point, Rubinstein's performance. And ditto for the Chopin, which was one of his signature pieces. Highly, highly recommended."
A lesson from the old (and dead) masters
A. Yen | MA, USA | 12/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are outstanding performances of classics. I bought this DVD for the Walton concerto, a piece I have played myself and feel deeply about. However, the other performances were an excellent surprise. Piatagorsky interprets the piece commissioned for him with authenticity, passion, and the appropriate grace. Heifetz's Mendelssohn is always a joy to hear.
One must note that these are HISTORICAL performances and should not be judged by their age and picture quality. You are getting performances that may be older than yourself, in my case certainly. (For more of that rant, see my review on the page for Rostropovich's performance of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, also on EMI.) In any case, these are easily ignored by those seeking authentic interpretations and an opportunity for a lesson from masters."