Like "Art of Piano," could be better, but worth owning
John Grabowski | USA | 02/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD makes a nice supplement to the "Art of Piano" documentary. Both could have been longer and both could have had more depth. But at least this one has some of the breadth that the former misses. An interesting introductory section on the development of the piano and the virtuosi who played it give the rise of 20th century pianism more context. We see some woderful clips of Cortot, Brailowski, Landowska (not really a pianist, but interesting nonetheless), Myra Hess and Rudolf Serkin. We get information we never had in A of P, such as how Hofmann made the very first piano cylinders, for Edison, just days after the latter perfected his recording device. (For curators of the offbeat, he may also have invented the windshield wiper.) We get a recording (the only one, barely distinguishable) of the voice of Brahms, made by Thomas Edison. We get more of Arrau than we did in A of P. Strangely absent from *both* productions is the man many consider the father of 20th century pianism, Artur Schnabel. Also absent in this one is Rachmaninoff, or at least bio and film about him. We do get mention of him, and see others play his works, but the man is absent himself. Some of the material, but not as much as you might expect, is duplicated from A of P. Even the Paderewski footage, though from the same concert, is of different works in that concert. The Hofmann is exactly the same only because this is the only footage extant of the man. Horowitz is seen performing the same Scriabin Etude from the same concert (his famous televised Carnegie Hall recital of 1968) in both, when there is plenty of Horowitz footage out there. One minor complaint is no dates for any of the footage is given in either the documentary or the booklet. I, for one, would like to know a lot more about the Cortot/Debussy film we see, a very early attempt at a "music video." Fascinating stuff!
The disc comes with a tacked-on bonus: Claudio Arrau performing one of his specialties, the Beethoven G Major Concerto, with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music. While I am a big admirer of Arrau, this performance was near the end of his life and he was not in top form, to put it politely. (Listen to his EMI recording of the 4th with Galliera or his Philips 1964 with Haitink for examples of how Arrau owned this piece.) Muti makes the fine Philly Orch sound like an (admittedly polished) anonymous house band, for what's what they often were in his hands. The performance is enjoyable, but not essential. Still, since there aren't many videos out there of either artist, it's nice to have this.
The documentary's narrator, noted piano authority David Dubal, is stiff and wooden and seems to be stuck in a 1978 fashion warp. He's not the best host, and tends to read every line as though it were portentous and profound, but at the same time, he's no worse than the grating British narrator on the Art of Piano doc. The structure of the documentary is a bit odd: after starting with the deaths of Horowitz, Arrau and Serkin, stating that they were the end of the great Romantic era of piano playing, we flash backwards to the beginning. We then work back to the three pianists who began our story, so it seems that we're wrapping up after them. But no, the filmmaker then inexplicably tacks on about five minutes of black and white footage of Van Cliburn, never even mentioned till then, performing his signature piece, the Tchaikovsky Concerto. *Then* the documentary ends!"
5 Stars Nonetheless
BLee | HK | 06/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
Regrettably, the host is dull and his comments are often biased. Moreover, a lot of the clips overlap those of "The Art of Piano". Having said that, this DVD is rich in materials. We are provided with a lot of photos/paintings of the legendary pianists, their background as well as the birth of modern pianos and their predecessors.
With Paderewski (Chopin Polanaise and his own Minuet), Hoffmann (Rachmaninoff), Horowitz (Scriabin), and Myra Hess (Apassionata), Serkin (Beethoven), we have exactly the same footage/s. For Cortot, we have some music videos,i.e., a child playing in a corner with some toys to the music. We could only see Cortot's wrists not hands for literally a couple of seconds and that is all-- a great disappointment for Cortot's fans!
The most valuable things that this DVD gives us include: Landowski playing on a harpsichord with a very special kind of finger position. Likewise, Grainger is interesting as he shows us the Busoni/Egon Petri approach, namely "picking up the keys".
For Rubinstein's fans, they could have a glimpse of him playing in a studio recording session with his forearms bare. Moreover, we can see how he listen and respond to his own recording. Serkin was as passionate and colourful and Horowitz as fascinating as ever.
For Van Clibern fans, there are 2 or 3 of his clips which are all very nice albeit somewhat short. Glenn Gould clips is short too, but we have plenty of him in the market. I'm not too sure how many viewers are interested in Brailowski nowadays, but his Chopin is nice nevertheless.
The crown of the jewel here is of course Arrau. Arrau was a child prodigy (a thorough bred in Rubinstein's word) before he went to Berlin and stayed for 7 years to study the piano with Martin Klause, one of Lizst's favourite pupils. His Lizst repertoire including the 12 Transcendal Etudes, Concert Paraphrases on Operas by Verdi, 5 Concert Studies and Pelerinage etc are one of the very best available ever. Not only was his Lizst repertoire much wider than Horowitz but was also more convincing, albeit both are equally staggering. His Lizst legacy is of equal importance with his Beethoven, if not more. I like Cziffra's Lizst ( and his Chopin too ), but I would go back to Arrau more often. In any event, I don't enjoy Earl Wild or even Bolet's Lizst quite as much: for an alternative, I rather go to Lupu.
Here not only do we have his Beethoven no. 4 in full, played with the Philidaephia under Muti, we further have 3 or 4 other short clips of him when he was still very much in his prime which could somehow show us the flexiblity of his arms: they are just like two snakes. Even though his no. 4 is past his prime, the whole performamce was nonetheless a success not just in view of his age at all. In any rate, it much better than Uchida's recent rendition in almost every score!
Simply another not to be missed. "
Could have been a lot better
BLee | 06/09/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was really concerned about buying this as I found no review for this product anywhere in the internet. Also, this DVD contains a subset(almost) of artists featured in "the art of piano". As expected, most of the clips were the same as that you'd see featured in "the art of piano"( Rachmaninoffs' prelude played by hoffman, appassionata played by Myra Hess ).
If you thought that "the art of piano" did not do justice in its featuring of the greats, this is not for you.
The only consolation is you get to see a complete Beethoven's work being handled by Arrau. In the feature section, Arrau is shown playing Liszt!!!( a bad choice. I would expect czzifra or one of the lizst speacialists playing Liszt)
My advice would be, if you do not have "the art of piano", then buy that before you start thinking about this DVD."
Incomplete, but fine
BLee | 11/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a pianist myself, I find it delightful and great to watch legendary performers. This DVD, has what we are looking for. We see clips of Horowitz, Arrau, Cortot, Serkin, Paderewski,.... But where are Schnabel, Kempff, Fischer, Backhaus....? I don't think they can't be considered Golden..... However, as the documentary goes on, we get introduced to the history of this magnificent instrument, the first recordings,.... It also comes with a great bonus. Claudio Arrau performing Beethoven Piano Concerto no.4 with Philadelphia orchestra and Riccardo Muti. Arrau may not be at his best, but I don't think there is any other filmed performane of Array playing this concerto."
Part II of "The Art of Piano" only now rounded out!
BLee | 05/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A few matters on this one: This DVD is an excellent adjunct to "The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century" because what one leaves out, the other picks up.
As for David Dubal as narrator, well, I like David in his many tomes but visually [and those threads aside], I think he all too often reverts, so to speak, back to the lectern at Juilliard while making [and phrasing] remarks as if his viewing audience were just now mastering "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" followed by "Chopsticks." Or perhaps waiting for the muse to strike while "listening" [!] to 4'33"! You know, the DVD 'windshield wiper' revelation about Josef Hofmann or the perpetual doom and gloom 'end of the romantic era' as if to suggest that with the great names of the era now gone, well, so too any possible replacements which further suggests that anything subsequent to the great names would be a mere shadow of what was and hence simply can not be again. Why is that? One could argue that David speaks more of the 'era' being gone versus the music and the interpreters yet the 'era' still lives today essentially 'through' its music and its interpreters, yes?
I know David was a great fan and ardent admirer of Horowitz with a book dedicated to same and an accompanying "Conversations with Horowitz" CD [and which I have, BTW, in fact, I have 'all' of David Dubal's books, they are that good!] but then too the music did not die, as the old song goes, with the passing of Horowitz. Or Arrau. Or Serkin. Et al. The war-horse pieces endure and great interpreters still exist with others waiting in the wings. Put another way, 'demand' will always assure 'supply' as they say [or as our old friend "Father Guido Sarducci" put it in the SNL "5 minute university" skit] not to mention the fact that pianistic prodigies have obviously not ceased being born.
Nor too those who hold dear the music of the so-termed romantic era. Thus far, and quite mercifully, 4'33" or the so-called "prepared piano" [you know, screws, bolts, spoons, marbles, et al fixed or 'free fall' , as it were, on the piano 'strings'] dissonance for the 'sake' of dissonance renditions have 'not' become the vogue of the masses. Hence the war-horses duly survive. As do their willing and able interpreters.
Together with "The Art of Piano" DVD, the "Golden Age of Piano" makes an excellent addition to any classical music video library. This one has an additional bonus feature of Claudio Arrau doing Beethoven's 4th piano concerto with a rather young Riccardo Muti [late of La Scala] although Claudio gives a great performance. I see some refer to Claudio in this piece as "well past his prime" but hey, get a gander of Francis Planté well in his 90's [that clip pf Planté in "The Art of Piano" DVD] doing that Chopin Etude No. 7 in C, Op. 10, fess up now, could you do better? Speaking of Claudio Arrau though, and one of my favorite war-horse piece interpreters, I would highly recommend the DVD "Claudio Arrau: The Emperor" which focuses on his return to Chile in 1984 and, inter alia, the rendition of his almost life-long signature piece, Beethoven's mighty and majestic 5th ["Emperor"] piano concerto.