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"It is instructive to compare these performances to the recently released Beethoven Piano Concertos played by Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Bernard Haitink led London Philharmonic, filmed in 1974. The Ashkenazy Beethoven performances are traditional, with a larger orchestra accompanying the piano, and both unleashing a full arsenal of tricks: extensive vibrato, a profligate use of the piano pedals, slower tempos and broad melodic lines, all of these a 19th Century performance paradigm. The lofty, denser and Romantic Beethoven we hear on those DVDs are no longer considered acceptable for modern performances. Their style was replaced by the lighter, swifter, streamlined Beethoven that we hear in these performances, recorded in September 1989 for the Bernstein led Concertos 3-5 and December 1991 for the Zimerman conducted Concertos 1 and 2. Here we find smaller orchestral forces, buoyant textures, swifter tempos and beautifully elegant playing from Zimerman.
The Wiener Philharmoniker have a unique sound that is especially effective when playing early and middle period Beethoven. Classical era grace, left over from the days of Haydn and Mozart, is a Vienna Philharmonic speciality. Here it produces lovely, elegant Beethoven. Bernstein elicits this elegance from the orchestra while exhibiting uncharacteristic restraint, and in the process, he induces transparent instrumental textures that yield lyrical and evocative performances rather than dense and hefty ones. This lithe and agile Beethoven is very surprising, given Bernstein's uber-Romantisch reputation: it certainly surprised me. The other big surprise is how similar Zimerman's conducted performances are to Bernstein's. Close your eyes and they are hard to tell apart.
All of these performances were filmed soon after Roger Norrington had completed his breakthrough period instrument performances of the Symphonies and Piano Concertos by the end of 1988. Given their revelatory nature and widespread approbation, some influence was inevitable. The Beethoven performances on this 2 DVD set are a wonderful recorded legacy and make a fine sonic monument for Leonard Bernstein, who died a year after his performances were filmed. The 2 DVDs have a total running time of 197 minutes. Sound is available in both the PCM and DTS 5.1 formats, with DTS offering additional space around each instrument and added rear ambiance. The sound is very clear and full, the digitally remastered image is crystalline. There are the usual DGG menus and languages.
If elegant, somewhat restrained but buoyant Beethoven is your forte, you most probably will like these performances a great deal. Strongly recommended.
Zimerman's Tribute to Bernstein
Joseph L. Ponessa | Glendive MT USA | 11/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Fifteen years ago these performances were released briefly on laserdisc, as was the frustrating habit of Polygram Classics. Now they reappear on DVD in an admirable Deutsche Grammophon edition. In September of 1989 Bernstein conducted the THIRD, FOURTH and FIFTH (EMPEROR) in concert in Vienna. After his death, Zimerman and the Vienna Philharmonic decided to complete the set by recording the first two by themselves. Zimerman owns the first two, Bernstein owns the last three, so the set is a bit disjointed as sets go, but on video it is fascinating to see the reverence Zimerman has for the great conductor from the get-go, and how his own spirit of interpretation takes over once he gets artistic control of the early concertos. In addition to the differences of performance, there also are differences of venue--the first two are not in concert like the last three--and differences in recorded sound. One would think that the more controlled environment of the first two would yield a better sound, but not so, and there are even differences between the two of them, the FIRST being a little undermiked, while the SECOND is fine. DG, Zimerman and the VPO have given Bernstein one of the finest memorials that he could ever have wanted, his final EMPEROR, and the whole set finished in his honor."
Mr. Michael Wang | 12/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Great transfer from 80's video to the modern day DD 5.1. Performances are also top notched ones. If you are looking for a complete set, I would recommend this over the other two done by Barenboim and Ashkenazy."
Luciano Mieli | 12/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"During many time, I was looking for the complete series for the Piano and Orchestra Beethoven works.
I saw this one with the unforgettable and greate Leonard Bernstein but I never heard something related Zimmerman. However now, after to have saw the two DVD, I realized that I bought a simply wonderful workmanship.
More words?????? Just buy and see it.....it's a masterpiece that must be in your house."
A wonderful memorial
gpk | Forest Grove, OR, United States | 05/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Concertos 3, 4 and 5 were recorded in Vienna in 1989, the year before Leonard Bernstein's death. Krystian Zimerman in December 1991 completed the cycle, as a memorial to the late conductor. The pianist conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker from the keyboard in concertos 1 and 2. Zimerman is an outstanding Beethoven interpreter: technically perfect, forceful, but always sensitive and aware of the classicist nature of these concertos. Bernstein conducts a (perhaps slightly pared down) highly responsive Vienna orchestra, the string and wind sound is relatively lean and inner dynamics come to the fore beautifully. In the two early concertos, Bernstein's inspiring presence is sadly missing. The Wiener Philharmoniker play every note very well indeed, and Zimerman sets numerous orchestral accents, but it is obvious that the conductor's role is foreign to him. In more ways than one, then, this set is a moving homage to Bernstein and a celebration of his close collaboration with Zimerman and the Vienna Philharmonic musicians. If you love these concertos as I do, you will also want to have Murray Perahia's sublime, spiritual approach to the whole set, recorded in 1988 in London (in very decent audio and video, Classic Archive) with the ASMF under the superb direction of Sir Neville Marriner. The very different, but equally outstanding Ambroisie-DVD set played by the stunningly brilliant François-René Duchable with John Nelson conducting the Ensemble National de Paris was recorded in PAL and has so far not been released in an NTSC version. In comparison, Daniel Barenboim, who conducts the very fine Staatskapelle Berlin from the keyboard (EuroArts), can sound ham-fisted on a few occasions and appears stretched to his limits in the dual role as soloist-conductor."