J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are those who say that Michelangeli's playing is too cool, too perfect, too mechanical. If that were the case one would probably notice it particularly in an all-Chopin recital, since Chopin's music is the essence of romanticism, emotionalism. Well, I'm here to tell you that for all his perfectionism this recital puts that canard to rest. Yes, these live performances are note-perfect (about the only thing amiss I ever noticed was the occasional awkward voicing of a chord) but they are also so full of feeling, however nuanced, that one can do nothing better than be swept along by them. For instance, I had always held up Rubinstein's recordings of the great Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22, as beyond compare. However, this performance by Michelangeli is at least the equal of those. Indeed, during the Andante I forgot to breathe. When the Grande Polonaise started I was caught up in the elegance of the dance rhythms and was picturing in my mind's eye an aristocratic or military ball, something I'd never quite done before with this piece. Michelangeli takes seriously the indication 'spianato' ('smooth') for the Andante and when the almost martial snap of the Polonaise begins one is both surprised and delighted. This is a magnificent performance.
For many people the main attraction here will be the first item on the program, the B Flat Minor Sonata, Op. 35. It, too, is magnificent. The Funeral March is played without false sadness, but rather as an inexorable procession to the graveyard; its middle section, with that gorgeous right-hand melody floating above the accompaniment, provides a brief respite. And, of course, it is followed by the unisono Presto that has so often been described as 'the sound of the wind sweeping over a graveyard.' The key to achieving that effect is for the movement to be played with a so-called 'hammerless piano' effect, and Michelangeli achieves that brilliantly.
There follows a mellow performance of the G Minor Ballade with effortless filigree (one of Michelangeli's trademarks, also in particular evidence on the exciting performance of the B Flat Minor Scherzo and in the Berceuse) and the Fantasie, Op. 49, admittedly one of my less favorite Chopin works, but played in lovely fashion here; in the latter and elsewhere we get to see and hear the utter perfection of Michelangeli's trills that are, as far as I'm concerned, the best I've ever heard. We get three waltzes, three mazurkas and the heart-easing Berceuse in D Flat, Op. 57, with its gradually accumulating filigree. Highlights include the dramatic performance of the posthumous Waltz in E Flat and the B Minor Mazurka.
The recital is filmed in a studio of RAI, Turin, with a minimum of camera work. There are no face or head shots. The camera either gives us a view as from a front row, or a closeup of the pianist's hands. There is minimal intercutting of views. The recital appears to have been filmed in one take. The only edit appears between the third and fourth movements of the Sonata with a change of camera angle just before Michelangeli launches into that amazing fourth movement. The DVD is in black and white, a piano on an uncluttered stage placed in front of a plain light gray background and with a single microphone at the middle of the front of the stage; the image is crisp, with deep focus. Sound is LPCM mono and of its time, quite acceptable. Running time is 109 minutes, no extras, title cards in easily deciphered Italian.
For those of you who are fans of Michelangeli, this DVD is a must-have.
Antonia Brentano | Leiden, The Netherlands | 04/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On this DVD you see and hear the best of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli : great musicianship, great technique, absolute wonderful performance. For piano students it's great to be able to study such a fantastic technique (using the slow-forward button on your remote), fortunately the days of video are over! It seems that this whole performance was taped in one or two takes, which makes the level of performance even more incredible. Please do not hesitate, buy this DVD now."
A Fascinating View.
Pupil | Malkuth | 07/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is, of course, an indispensible document of Michelangeli's craft, and a near-perfect introduction for the visually-oriented enthusiast. The sound is clear (if a little flat), the video is sharp, the programme quite full, and the performances are all surprisingly unedited, raw, and generously performed.
Michelangeli is unquestionnably one of the most peculiar and fascinating pianists of the 20th century. In his almost perfectly mathematical dissection, valuation, and execution of a piano score, and in his minimalistic elegance of gesture and control, he seems to figure for both the shiny attractiveness - and the incompleteness - of the INTELLECT as an exclusive vessel for understanding and reproducing Art.
For all of the conceptual perfection in Michelangeli's treatments of these and other works I have heard in him, there yet always remains an entire universe of sound and understanding which seem to evade his fingertips, A universe far better understood by the likes of Lipatti, for instance, or even Rubinstein; men of distinct heart and mind.
David Dubal once epitomized the pianistic phenomenon called Michelangeli as "the merging of mechanism with music". This, I find, is a perfect synthesis of his craft.
As a document and a spiritual symbol, this is a very rewarding and satisfying DVD, and one which will doubtless please the adamant followers of Michelangeli's highly intriguing musical views. As a living evocation of the emotional-intuitive wisdom pored into Chopin's masterworks, these are less than satisfying renditions in a definitive new wave of musical intellection, dissection, and incompleteness."
Michelangeli plays Chopin
Amy | 01/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is something utterly timeless about this DVD. The setting itself, is so simple which was at Michelangeli's own request that bares white walls and could as easily be the inside of a space capsule. Long shots are out so we never get to see if there is an auditorium behind the camera. Watching you just assume there's another white wall. If there is an auditorium there is certainly no public in it. So just a confined, open space with a piano which is also timeless since there's no maker's name on it, only a mysterious emblem, a sturdy old fashioned microphone and Michelangeli. Here again our sense of reality is challenged for he is playing in full evening dress though no one is there to see him. His actual control over the instrument is so superhuman. He himself seems incredibly remote, his face is always expressionless. What makes him so interesting and amazing is he's one of the few pianists that when he plays the fingers are the ONLY contact with the instrument and that ONLY this contact creates the sound and the performance. No other body movement is allowed which does not directly assist the fingers. Of course his arms move when dispatching chains of octaves or when leaping up and down the keyboard at the climax of the second Scherzo, but the fingers always lead the way. Michelangeli also challenges our sense of reality by virtually playing the almost two hour concert in one stretch. There are, it is true, a couple of breaks in the picture between items, but more often the cameras remain trained on him as he finishes a piece, slowly withdraws his hands, collects his thoughts, occasionally reaches for a handkerchief hidden inside the piano, wipes the piano, and then gets on with the next piece. The pieces performed on this DVD are:
1) Piano Sonata in B flat minor Op.35
2) Ballade in G minor Op.23
3)Andante spianato et Grande polonaise brillante Op.22
4) Fantasia Op.49
5) Waltz in A flat Op.69
6) Waltz in A flat Op.34
7) Waltz in E flat Op. posth
8) Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor Op.31
9) Mazurka in A minor Op.68
10) Mazurka in B minor Op.33
11) Mazurka in D flat Op.30
12) Berceuse in D flat Op.57
Earlier on, in the Sonata mainly, I felt that his insistence on a finely sculpted line, on playing even the soft pianissimos through the public address system as it were, could have its downside, but as the program proceeds he seems increasingly to be communing only with himself. Some of his rubato is extreme yet it is played to such a perfect sense of rhythmic continuity that it always works. How typical of this enigmatic artist that his small repertoire (virtually all the Chopin he ever played is here) should contain one of the posthumous Waltzes that normally only gets played by pianists booked to record the complete set, and that he should make it sound an absolute masterpiece. From the Waltzes onwards, but above all in the Ballade in G Minor and the Berceuse we have some of the supreme performances of these particular works ever recorded. This DVD offers quite an extraordinary experience, something timeless that goes beyond the confines of Chopin and Michelangeli themselves and thankfully it was captured and preserved on film for people to watch.
R. Machado | Sao Paulo, SP Brazil | 05/31/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, the product is good. But, I confess I'm little disapointed. Someone said that Michelangeli is "cold" and others says that he's not. I think the DVD seems something cold. The perfomences are very good, of course, but I think a little cold in fact. The sound mono and the black and white picture contributes, no doubt, to this coldness.
About cameras, it could be better. You have only two views, and one of them you see 80% of the time (the worst one!). The backgroud is clear, almost white and there is little contrast with the keyboard and hands of Mr Michelangeli. (the hands are white, since the DVD is black and white and you have so much light over the keyboard and thus the hands)
In summary: very good perfomance, thecnicaly perfect (really perfect) but, in terms of power, colors, energy, brightness, I prefer Richter, Rubinstein, Horowitz and so on. Picture really could be better. Sound very clear, perfect, but mono. A good product, not fatastic, not superb, not incredible, something simple good.