Music of Handel, Debussy, Jolivet, Ravel, Vivaldi, Bach, Couperin, Mozart and Ibert performed by flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVB 50189991 TT: 99:21

CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, Op. 11. Waltz No. 11 in G flat, Op. 70 No. 1. RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G. Forlane. DEBUSSY: Toccata. La plus que lente. L'Isle Joyeuse.
Samson François, pianist; RTF Orch/Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, cond. (Chopin concerto); ORTF Orch/John Pritchard, cond. (Ravel).
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVB 50190096 TT: 84:12

DEBUSSY: Preludes, Book I. Hommage à Rameau. CHOPIN: Mazurka in G sharp minor, Op. 33 No. 1. Mazurka in B minor, Op. 33 No. 4. SCARLATTI: Sonata in C minor, Kk 11. Sonata in C, Kk 159.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, pianist
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVB 50189694 TT: 68:37

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 (mvts. 2, 3, 4). RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé (Suite No. 2). CHABRIER: Bourrée Fantasque. FAURÉ: Pelléas et Mélisande Suite, Op. 80.
Orchestre National de l'ORTF/Charles Munch, cond. (Bahms/Ravel); Paul Paray, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD DVB 50677290 TT: 69:45

Again EMI has gone into the Classic Archive TV series and offers fascinating videos of major artists. Jean-Pierre Rampal, who died in May 2000 at the age of 78, was the leading flutist of the last century and here can be seen in his absolute prime, the collection highlighted by Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1 recorded May 5, 1965, and Ibert's Flute Concerto from April 8, 1962. Samson Françoise (1924-1970) was an incredible virtuoso, erratic in performance as evidenced by this 1962 broadcast of Chopin's Concerto No. 1, surely the most mannered one is likely to hear. The previous year, conductor Stanislaw Skrowaczewski had recorded this concerto for RCA with Arthur Rubinstein, surely an easier task than following the willful Françoise, who is much more at home in Ravel's Concerto in G recorded in 1964, with John Pritchard conducting. A tidbit is Chopin's Waltz No. 11 from a broadcast in 1954 in which he re-starts the work. A true "bonus" is Alfred Cortot playing Chopin's Waltz No. 9 filmed in Paris in 1944. The French orchestras aren't in top form in any of these performance, the black and white photography adequate, the audio restricted. Consistent interest is found in the Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli program recorded in Paris October 22, 1978 (Preludes) and January 5, 1965. The aristocratic, self-centered pianist is in top form, and only the two Scarlatti sonatas duplicate previous DVDs by Michelangeli.

The Charles Munch DVD is frustrating for what it might have been. The concert was televised when the ORTF Orchestra was in tour in Tokyo where they gave two performances October 8 and 20, 1966. Producers say they were unable to locate a copy of the first movement of the Brahms symphony, so we have only the final three, presented with Munch's usual propulsive style. Another Munch showpiece, the Ravel suite, is marred only by the quality of the French orchestra. The unfortunate omission is another work presented at these concerts: Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Nicole Henriot-Schweitzer as soloist, a work the pianist and Munch had recorded with the Boston Symphony in 1957 currently unavailable except in a private issue. Now that would have been of enormous interest, surely more so than the Chabrier and Fauré works conducted by Paul Paray. However, admirers of Munch surely will wish to investigate what is offered on this DVD.

R.E.B. (November 2007)