BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E.
Alfred Brendel, pianist; Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2054648 TT: 106 min.

PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. RACHMANINOFF: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43.
Byron Janis, pianist; RTF National Orch/Paul Paray, cond. (Prokofiev); Louis de Froment, cond.

BOULEZ: Notations I-IV. DEBUSSY: La Mer. DE FALLA: The Three-Cornered Hat.
Elisabete Matos, mezzo-soprano; Chicago Symphony Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2050136 TT: 110 min.

Music of Beintus, Ravel, Hi-Ten-Yu, Hayashi, Jiping, Gershwin, and Lincke.
Mari & Momo Kodama, pianists; Eitetsu Hayashi, wadaiko; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Kent Nagano, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2050526 TT: 112 min.

Claudio Abbado and the virtuoso Lucerne Festival Orchestra have another winner in this concert recorded at the opening of the Lucerne Festival August 10-12, 2005. Werner Pfister's program notes point out the illustrious list of orchestral players that includes representatives of many major orchestras of the world plus the Alban Berg Quartet. Alfred Brendel has long been associated with the Beethoven concertos, having recorded them several times, most recently in 1998 with Sir Simon Rattle and the Vienna Philharmonic. This is a magnificent account of Concerto No. 3, with particularly insightful accompaniment from Abbado—timpani in the finale are outstanding! This Bruckner Seventh has a finale that is too brisk for my taste, but there's no question the symphony is superbly presented. Michael Beyer's video direction is outstanding with the camera always in an appropriate place, and the 5.1 surround sound admirably captures the warm acoustics of Lucerne's Culture and Convention Centre Concert Hall.

What a pleasure it is to watch Byron Janis at the height of his powers in these live French telecasts of Prokofiev's Concerto No. 3 from December 28, 1963, a year after his famous recording of the work with Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic, and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. Janis did not make a commercial recording of the Rachmaninoff, so this performance January 2, 1968 is a major addition to the catalog. The "bonus" is truly that: Julius Katchen, who died in 1969 at the age of 42, playing music of Brahms, Sonata No. 2 and two Hungarian Dances, recorded October 4, 1966 and June 26, 1966—which raises the question of what other treasures are in the archives of ORTF. All of these videos are black and white telecasts in mono sound sufficient to convey the performances. The camera technique is basic, focusing on the soloists.

The Chicago Symphony concert is taken from performances April 25-27, 2000 in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall during MusikTriennale Köln. It's a rather odd program beginning with Notations I-IV of Pierre Boulez who has had a long association with the CSO, which, together with the Berlin Philharmonic, commissioned Notations VII. Debussy's La Mer is given a meticulous performance with many rather quirky nuances, but dynamic overall effect. The featured work, Falla's complete Three-Cornered Hat, features Elisabete Matos in the brief mezzo solos, with members of the orchestra providing the brief flamencoesque shouts and hand-claps. Barenboim reportedly loves this music and it shows in this vivid performance which is a virtuoso showpiece for the Chicago Symphony. As an appropriate encore, José Carli's delightful El firulete finds the CSO in pop form. The 5.1 sound is quite resonant but effective.

A Night of Rhythm and Dance is the title given to the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's annual end-of-season Waldbühne concert, an outdoor performance with a huge audience (I imagine many of the major players of the BPO opted not to play this event). At these concerts a tradition has developed with the audience performing a "Mexican wave," a section-by-section ripple as various sections stand up—which is only partially seen on this DVD. A huge video screen shows close-ups of performers. This concert is a mixed bag indeed, with two of Ravel's major works, La Valse and a suite from Daphnis and Chloe, Jean-Pascal Beintus' He Got Rhythm ("Hommage à George Gershwin"), an 8-minute arrangement of I Got Rhythm featuring pianists Mari and Momo Kodama, and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham singing six Gershwin songs. Eitetsu Hayashi, a remarkable master of wadaiko, traditional Japanese drumming, gives a stunning performance of an 18-minute concerto for drums ("Hi-Ten-Yu") by Isao Matsushita, and one of his own works, "Utage." Six soloists playing Japanese instruments are featured in an 18-minute suite of music by Zhao Jiping for the popular film Farewell My Concubine. The program ends with Paul Lincke's Berliner Luft, obviously a favorite at these concerts; conductor Nagano gives the downbeat for this and walks off stage leaving the BPO to fend for itself in this lively march which includes much audience participation. There are countless microphones on stage and director Bob Coles and producer Paul Smaczny have done a splendid job. The 5.1 sound is quite vivid—remarkably clear and wide-range (Hayashi's drums will test your speaker system) and I'm certain watching this DVD we hear the performances better than did those in the audience.

R.E.B. (June 2006)