SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 5 in B flat, D. 485. BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68.
NDR Symphony Orch/Günter Wand, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW-COWAND7 TT: 81 min.
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BRAHMS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58.
Wilhelm Backhaus, pianist; Vienna Symphony Orch (Beethoven); Vienna Philharmonic Orch (Brahms)/Karl Böhm, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2072058 TT: 73 min.
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SCHUMANN: Adagio and Allegro brillante (arr. Tchaikovsky). Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54. Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120. Vom fremden Ländern und Menschen from Kinderszenen, Op. 15. 4 Pieces from Carnaval, Op. 9 (arr. Ravel).
Martha Argerich, pianist; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2055498 TT: 93 min.
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The first two above listed DVDs are important releases for collectors—two major conductors of the past century in repertory staples grandly performed. We are fortunate many of Günter Wand's performances of his last few years (he died in 2002) were recorded with an superb orchestra. In spite of his age, Wand's interpretations are energetic and fresh, and the NDR Orchestra (which appointed Wand as conductor emeritus in 1987) is first-class. Both performances were recorded live at the Kieler Schloss, Kiel, August 24, 1997. The Backhaus-Böhm Beethoven concerto was recorded in Studio Rosenhügel in Vienna April 3-9, 1967 with the Vienna Symphony. What a pleasure it is to watch this magnificent pianist in this "live" performance of a concerto he recorded several times commercially—another video is available of a performance recorded at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna May 31, 1962 (see REVIEW).He plays his own cadenza in the finale. As Backaus plays, there is solid concentration, an occasional slight touch of a smile, and not a single grimace or agonized facial expression or near levitation displayed by many of today's pianists. The Brahms symphony was recorded during a concert in Vienna September 16-19, 1970. Audio is well-balanced stereo—the 5.1 surround sound artificially, but effectively, produced.

The Schumann concert, perhaps intended in some way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the composer's death, was recorded June 1-2, 2006 in Leipzig's Gewandhaus . The composer spent many years in Leipzig, where early in his career he composed piano pieces, songs and chamber music as well as his first symphony, the Spring symphony, which was premiered by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra early in 1841. This DVD offers a fascinating program featuring the Piano Concerto in A minor with Martha Argerich in top form as soloist. As an encore she plays the brief, gentle "Of Foreign Lands and Peoples" from Vom fremden Ländern und Menschen. The concert opens with Tchaikovsky's arrangement of Adagio and Allegro Brilliant from Symphonic Etudes also including Ravel's orchestration of four excerpts from Carnaval. Symphony No. 4, which received its premiere December 6, 1841 in Leipzig, concludes the program in a robust, beautifully played performance that is a surprisingly tame, leisurely reading. Audio is superb, and Michael Beyer's direction always has the camera where it should be.

R.E.B. (December 2006)

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