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Verbier Festival & Academy 10th Anniversary Piano Extravaganza

Piano Extravaganza / Various
Release Date: 10/12/2004 
Label:  Rca   Catalog #: 61860  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartBedrich SmetanaJohann Sebastian BachGioachino Rossini,   ... 
Performer:  Evgeny KissinMartha ArgerichJames LevineEmanuel Ax,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is truly unique and great fun. Can any lover of the piano really resist seeing and hearing Evgeni Kissin, Lang Lang, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Claude Frank, Mikhail Pletnev,Staffan Scheja, and James Levine playing the Ride of the Valkyries or the flight of the Bumblebee on eight Steinway Concert Grands? This is a spectacle to enjoy and share, where the visual component is an integral aspect of appreciation. Of course, along the way there is also much marvelous music from Kissin and Argerich playing four hand Mozart to the Bach Four Harpsichord Concerto with Pletnev, Argerich, Kissin and Levine. This is a rare event and certainly one that those of us that were not there are lucky to be able to experience in such brilliantly captured Read more sound and image.

This celebration of the piano took place in the lush surroundings of the Swiss Alps. Eight pianos were laid out on the stage, with a variety of virtuoso musicians stepping up to prove their chops, both together and in solo slots. The performances come thick and fast, with works such as Mozart's PIANO SONATA FOR 4 HANDS, Rossini's SEMIRAMIDE OVERTURE, Wagner's RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES, and Bach's CONCERTO FOR 4 PIANOS given a thorough workover. The incredible line up of musicians is comprised of Nicolas Angelich, Martha Argerich, Leif Ove Andsnes, Staffan Scheja, James Levine, Mikhail Pletnev, Lang Lang, Claude Frank, Evgeny Kissin, and Emanuel Ax.

Mozart - Piano Sonata for 4 hands
Bach - Concerto for 4 pianos
Wagner - Ride of the Valkyries
Smetana - Sonata in one movement for 2 pianos and 8 hands
Rossini - Semiramide Overture
Benjamin - Jamaican Rumba
Gould - Stars and Stripes Forever Suite
Gottschalk - L'Union
Rimsky-Korsakov - Flight of the Bumblebee


Verbier is 1500m above sea level and is in the Vol de Bages not far from the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc in south-central Switzerland which seems a strange place to hold a musical festival. But the Verbier festival is now in its second decade and attracts an astonishing array of many of the world’s most famous musicians who play together, have fun, run master-classes and help teach a new generation of musicians. This DVD records the 10th anniversary celebration on July 22, 2003. As this coincided with the 150th anniversary of Steinway and Sons, they provided eight of their grand pianos as part of the celebration.

Possibly never before have so many famous musicians collaborated in one concert as the above list of artists illustrates. Even this list does not tell the full story as the “Birthday Festival Orchestra” includes such famous musicians as Kremer, Repin, Tetzlaff and others. The concert started with Argerich and Kissin playing the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos, a mature Mozart piece of considerable beauty. Smetana’s Sonata in one movement for two pianos and eight hands is a rarity, which is really interesting, tuneful and at times complex; it sounds quite percussive and modern in places. Extracts of the Happy Birthday Variations by Heidrich follow; this comprised variations in the style of Haydn, Beethoven, a Tango and Czardas and was played with style by the orchestra.

The Bach concerto for four pianos is another fascinating rarity – contrapuntal and very complex at times but with a haunting slow movement and a rousing finale.

The rest of the concert is a grand bash with eight pianists playing eight excellent pianos. With such forces, playing together at all is almost impossible, but with pianists of this calibre the result is amazingly good - providing that you don’t expect subtlety and exact precision. The artists seem to be enjoying themselves and it is really good fun. As you would perhaps expect the Gottschalk “Union” arrangement was probably the most suitable for this treatment. The Rossini is quite a subtle piece and showed the strain of the octet treatment the most. All most enjoyable – and finally Barbara Hendricks joined to conclude the Concert with Happy Birthday.

Throughout the musicians were clearly enjoying themselves as was the audience and the atmosphere is caught very well on this DVD.

-- Arthur Baker, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Piano 4 hands in C major, K 521 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Evgeny Kissin (Piano), Martha Argerich (Piano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Vienna, Austria 
Sonata for 2 Pianos 8 Hands in E minor, B 70/T 47 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  James Levine (Piano), Emanuel Ax (Piano), Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano),
Evgeny Kissin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: c. 1851; Czech Republic 
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords in A minor, BWV 1065 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Mikhail Pletnev (Piano), Evgeny Kissin (Piano), Martha Argerich (Piano),
James Levine (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738-1739; Leipzig, Germany 
Semiramide: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Staffan Scheja (Piano), James Levine (Piano), Evgeny Kissin (Piano),
Nicholas Angelich (Piano), Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano), Emanuel Ax (Piano),
Lang Lang (Piano), Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Italy 
Notes: arrangement by Czerny/R Gulda 
Die Walküre: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Staffan Scheja (Piano), James Levine (Piano), Evgeny Kissin (Piano),
Emanuel Ax (Piano), Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano), Claude Frank (Piano),
Lang Lang (Piano), Mikhail Pletnev (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Notes: arranged by Blackford 
Jamaican Rumba by Arthur Benjamin
Performer:  Evgeny Kissin (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
Tale of Tsar Saltan: Suite, Op. 57 - Flight of the bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903; Russia 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
  A great piano spectacle! April 8, 2012 By Frank S. (Zevenaar, Netherlands) See All My Reviews "The enthousiasme is great of this renowned pianoplayers. The highlight is without doubt the Mozart piano sonate of Kissin and Argerich." Report Abuse
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