PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 in D "Classical." Piano Concerto No. 1 in D flat, Op. 10. SCHUMANN: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105. BEETHOVEN: Concerto in C, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto."
Martha Argerich, pianist; Renaud Capuçon, violinist; Gautier Capuçon, cellist; Flanders Symphony Orch/Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW-COMARG TT: 87 min.
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 36. PAGANINI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7 "La Campanella." BRAHMS: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108. BARTÓK: Sonata for Solo Violin, III Melodia. ELGAR: La Capricieuse, Op. 17. WIENIAWSKI: Polonaise Brillante in D, Op. 4. Capriccio-Valse in E, Op. 7. SAINT-SAËNS: Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28. MOSZKOWSKI/SARASATE: Guitarre, Op. 45 No. 2. ALBENIZ/KREISLER: Malaguena, Op. 165.
Ivry Gitlis, violinist; French National Radio Orch/Francesco Mander, cond. (Tchaikovsky); Warsaw National Philharmonic Orch/Stanislaw Wislocki, cond. (Paganini); pianists Tasso Janopoulo, Georges Pludemacher
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO DVB 38846904 TT: 76 min.
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JULIA VARADY "Song of Passion" - A film by Bruno Monsaingeon. WAGNER: Wesendonck Lieder. TCHAIKOVSKY: Kaby znala ia. SCHUBERT: rehearsal of Death and the Maiden
Julia Varady, soprano; Victoria Postnikova, pianist; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, pianist
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO DVB 3884589 TT: 94 min.

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What a pleasure it is to watch Martha Argerich in performance! Here she is seen in a concert from the La Roque d'Anthéron Piano Festival, Parc du Chateau de Florans, in July 2005. The Flanders Symphony Orchestra is directed by Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, a conductor Argerich has recorded with for EMI (concertos of Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Beethoven), and for other labels as well. Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, about 60 at the time of this concert, is wild-eyed and dynamic on the podium, also a composer (I haven't heard any of his music). He elicits fine playing from the Flanders orchestra and doubtless we will hear more from him. Also featured on this concert are the Capuçon brothers, violinist Renaud and cellist Gautier, the former featured in Schumann's first sonata for violin and piano, both in Beethoven's concerto. But the star here is Argerich who tosses off Prokofiev's first concerto with ease and obvious pleasure. Audio and visual work are well done under the direction of René Martin.

Israeli violinist Ivry Gitlis, born in 1922, is another legendary figure. He studied with George Enescu and Jacques Thibaud, and after his sensational Paris debut in 1951 appeared with major orchestras in Europe and the United States. Few of his recordings are currently available, even Berg's concerto which won a French Grand Prix du Disque, so this DVD is particularly welcome. Gitlis is in fine form in this performance of Tchaikovsky's concerto, but receives little help from the French orchestra under a forgettable conductor, Francesco Mander. To many the highlight of this DVD will be the "bonus," a specialty of the violinist, Paganini's La Campanella recorded in 1966 in Warsaw. The black and white photography is adequate, as is the mono sound.

Bruno Monsaingeon's Song of Passion devoted to Hungarian-born soprano Julia Varady was filmed over two years around 1998 when she retired. Monsaingeon attempts to retrace the most important stages of Varady's career and the range of her musical activities using a few live performance excerpts for illustration. He ambitiously states Varady "embodies in one person the unlikely fusion of the art of the two most famous prima donnas of the second half of the twentieth century, Maria Callas and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf." True she was a fine singer, with a large repertory, but Varady lacked the charisma and vocal excitement of the grand divas. Monsaingeon's conversations with her cover her varied roles, childhood, meeting Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (whom she married in 1977), her problems with directors, and a brief rehearsal with pianist Viktoria Postnikova, who also accompanies the performance of Wesendonck Lieder seen here recorded in Paris in 1998. A "bonus" is a 9-minute rehearsal of Schubert's Death and the Maiden with Fischer-Dieskau at the piano, filmed in Berlin in 1996. If you're a fan of Varady, this is for you.

R.E.B. (May 2007)

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