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Schumann: Piano Concerto, Symphony no 4 / Argerich, Chailly [Blu-ray]

Schumann / Argerich / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Release Date: 02/23/2010 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2055494  
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Martha Argerich
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $36.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Études symphoniques: Adagio and Allegro brilliante (arr. Tchaikovsky). Piano Concerto in a. Kinderszenen: “ Of Foreign Lands and Peoples.” Carnaval: 4 Pieces (arr. Ravel). Symphony No. 4 in d Riccardo Chailly, cond; Martha Argerich (pn); Leipzig Gewandhaus O Read more EUROARTS 2055494 (Blu-ray: 93:00) Live: Leipzig 6/2006

I like watching movies at home on DVD as much as the next guy. So, about a year ago I invested in a Blu-ray disc player, succumbing to all the media hype when famed producer Steven Spielberg settled on Sony’s high-def format over Toshiba’s HD DVD format. But that purchase was not made without full knowledge that I’d also need to replace my TV with one that was capable of reproducing images in 1080i and/or 1080p resolution. I still don’t understand the difference between the two, but it didn’t matter because the salesman was perfectly happy to sell me the most expensive model. Now that I’ve had the player and the TV for a year, this is only my second Blu-ray disc, for come to find out that (1) Blu-rays can cost up to twice what standard DVDs cost; and (2) as in the early days of CD, software choices are limited, with most discs that appear on Blu-ray being box-office hits about planet-wide cosmic catastrophes, alien invasions, vampires, and zombies.

The new release at hand is not the first filmed concert to be produced in Blu-ray format, but it’s the first I’ve seen, and, from my perspective, its benefits are also its drawbacks. But first I feel it’s incumbent on me to issue a big warning for those readers who may not have been keeping abreast of the technology. Unlike a “hybrid” SACD, which will play in a standard CD player, Blu-rays will not play in standard DVD players or multiformat CD players that can play standard DVDs but not Blu-rays. To play this disc, you must have a Blu-ray player. But that’s only a start. As indicated above, even if you have a player capable of handling every format of disc on the planet, you will gain no benefit from this disc unless the video signal is sent to a high-definition TV or monitor capable of 1080i/1080p resolution through an HDMI cable connection.

Assuming you already have said setup, what you will see when you play this disc is a picture of exceptional sharpness, clarity, and contrast, which, as it turns out, may be more of a liability than a benefit. Unless you are accustomed to sitting front-row center at a concert with high-powered binoculars trained on the musicians’ pimples and pockmarks, viewing this video can be very distracting. I nearly lost my lunch being exposed to repeated close-ups of the eczema-like rash on the principal clarinetist’s hand and to an unsightly black spot on the principal oboist’s pinky fingernail. By now we’re used to seeing sweat and spittle on regular DVDs, but this is like inspecting every blackhead and zit through a magnifying glass. A little distance, whether aesthetic or cosmetic, is not a bad thing. Blu-ray may be great for movies where the actors are heavily made up to hide blotches and blemishes, but musicians, at least of the classical variety, are not plucked and powdered by makeup artists before going on stage.

As for the audio side of things, the disc is playable in either standard two-channel PCM stereo or PCM 5.1 surround sound. Musically, as far as I’m concerned, anything Martha Argerich does is worth hearing. Her Schumann concerto is stunning, articulated by a keen rhythmic incisiveness in her passagework that sometimes leads and other times follows the corresponding statements in the orchestra. Riccardo Chailly maintains a tight grip throughout, ensuring precise coordination between soloist and orchestra. Only once, at the beginning of the Intermezzo movement, is there a moment of tempo disagreement; and it’s so minor that it might have gone unnoticed if not for Argerich’s persimmon-puckered expression and a slightly embarrassed grin on the face of one of the horn players. This same performance, by the way, is available on another EuroArts standard DVD that, like a Brahms violin concerto DVD reviewed elsewhere, substitutes a documentary for the rest of the concert.

The remainder of it, which we do get here, consists of Argerich following the concerto with a brief encore from Schumann’s Kinderszenen ; two arrangements for orchestra, one by Tchaikovsky, the other by Ravel, of Schumann piano pieces; and a quite powerful, dramatic performance of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. I can’t be sure if this is the same performance included in Chailly’s Schumann symphony cycle with the Gewandhaus Orchestra on Decca because I don’t have that set. But I do have his Decca recording of the Fourth Symphony with the Royal Concertgebouw, and I am of a mind that Chailly is one of today’s top podium maestros. His current contract with the Gewandhaus was recently extended through 2015. The orchestra is lucky to have him.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins


Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Recorded live at the Gewandhaus zu Leipzig, 1-2 June 2006

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM 2.0 and 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 93 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 54 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Martha Argerich (Piano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841-1845; Germany 
Kinderszenen, Op. 15: no 1, Von fremden Ländern und Menschen by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Martha Argerich (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 
Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 120 by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Symphonic Etudes for Piano, Op. 13: Excerpt(s) by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837/1852; Germany 
Notes: Orchestrated: Tchaikovsky  
Carnaval, Op. 9: Excerpt(s) by Robert Schumann
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833-1835; Germany 
Notes:  Orchestrated: Ravel  

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