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"This dvd opens with Claudio Arrau performing the final movement of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto, and everything else is sort of a disappointment by comparison. Although Arrau is lumped together on this disc with Phillipe Entremont, Van Cliburn, John Browning, Jorge Bolet, Jose Iturbi and other good pianists, he was one of the 20th century's truly great pianists in the category of Serkin, Rubinstein, Horowitz and Richter. (Robert Casadesus, who is technically fantastic in the final movement of Chopin's 3rd piano sonata - an unusual selection for him as he was not a Chopin player - is the other interesting artist on this dvd. If only he slowed down here and there to let the music breathe a little....) In any event, twenty or thirty seconds of watching Arrau at the keyboard is enough to differentiate him from the rest of the pack and worth the price of the disc. His hands are unbelievable and he produced music, not notes like the others. He was a great Beethoven player - enormously insightful and poetic.Some other downsides re: this dvd - the orchestra is disappointing, but this is the fault of the conducter who is like an automaton; and the musical cuts are appalling - even some of the supposedly uncut pieces suffer abridgements. Otherwise, as stated above, worth acquiring for the Arrau performance."
Another elusive videotape pioneer
Chris Aldridge | Washington, DC USA | 12/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love these compilation DVDs of this musical anthology. I also love the fact that these shows were originally broadcast on NBC and recorded on color videotape (from as early as 1959) and have been remastered- and now look and sound as crystal clear as a live performance. Sadly, only a few of these master videotapes (going on 45 years old) have been made accessible to the public in the last fifteen years. That's why this DVD series is so precious. My favorite scenes include Jorge Bolet's rendition of Rhapsody in Blue; a disgustingly young Van Cliburn performing Schumann and Brahms; Byron Janis performing the finale of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 and Grant Johannesen skating through Gershwin's Concerto in F. Many of these concert clips appear on the syndictated Classic Arts Showcase channel, but I suggest buying the DVDs in order to see the full performances. There are other Bell DVDs of opera singers, violinists, and even one with ballet dancers. This was the last avenue for commercially broadcast classical music, before it all migrated to PBS. Don't miss it."
2 Hours of Great Piano Music
BLee | HK | 06/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
With this DVD we have two hours of piano music with a lot of pianists. In particular, we have we have three of the greatest American born pianists namely, Cliburn (his Schumann is nice), Browning, and Janis, so that we can have an overall view of them all. From these clips, views could see for themselves for example how much Van Cliburn has learned from Mrs Lhevinne or Janis from Horowitz etc.
Viewers might as well compare in general how the American pianists are different from thier counterparts in French, say Casadesus memebers and Philippe Entremont who played with amazingly loose and relaxed hands.
But needless to say, the jewel of the crown remains fairly and squarely Arrau, albeit that we only have the 3rd Movt of Emperor supported by a somewhat amateurish conductor. Arrau was at his prime then and he played this movement with beautiful and yet sonorous tone with layers and layers of colours. Note how flexible his hands were by this time: only Nelson Freire could compare with him.
Another great attraction would be Casadesus playing the 3rd movement of Beethoven's appassionata and a movement of Chopin sonata no.3. We also have Bach concerto for three pianos played by the family. Casadesus family playing Bach. Casadesus was the only rival to Arthur Rubinstein at the time according. Even Horszowski admired the beauty of Casadesus's playing! Most people even regard him the best French pianist after Cortot. But even though his playing defintely throw light to these pieces, his reading may not to the taste of some. It had more to do with the repertoire and the poor recording instead.
Another great delight would be Johannesen, an extremely refined pianist of all ages. It was no coincidence that he was the last one to play: so that viewers are impressed all the more.
It goes without saying that Bolet is well worth our time, but one would rather prefer his Lizst or at least a large scale piece. For the rest like young Hollander (15 yrs) or the legendary Iturbi, we might simply take them as bonus or whatever.
The overall production, the sound or picture are not that impressing particularly the brass section of the orchestra. But who cares when we have these great pianists playing right in front of you. Note that we have 129 minutes of music from this DVD. It deserves either a 4 or 5 STARS depending what you expect from footages of this nature.
Excellent piano technique educational tool
W. Gershon | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was a gift to a piano student to show how the performer's physical interaction with the piano can create the nuances of sound and interpretation that make the performer and performance disctinctive.
Playing the piano is a very physical art. How the performer uses hands, arms, indeed the entire body makes a big difference. The student's comments: "Now I really understand what you have been telling me!""
Great Pianists of the Bell Telephone Hour 1959-1967
Sue Frazier | Park Ridge, IL United States | 01/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I truly enjoyed the fine performances of all the pianists on this tape with the slight exceptions of Jose Iturbi and Grant Johannesen. My highest accolades go to Byron Janis whose playing is beyond mere praise. He brings so much beauty, passion and excitement from the Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev that it takes my breath away."