Let's get the obvious part of this out of the way. This is a really well shot video of a really well played concert. The performance of the Shostakovich Festive Overture sparkles. The Ravel concerto gets one of the finest performances I have ever heard. The Chopin Mazurka, offered by Argerich as an encore, made me want to rush over to the piano and play it. And the excerpts from the Romeo and Juliet Suites by Prokofiev, well it just doesn't get much better than this. Wonderful music, great pianist, master conductor and outstanding orchestra. What more is there to say?
Quite a lot, actually. There are whys and wherefores.
First the video. I usually run the other way when presented with a filmed concert. So often, the director has no understanding of the music and cuts incessantly from a full orchestra shot to a solo, to the conductor making faces only a chimp's mother could love, back to another soloist, to the string section while the woodwinds play the theme, to the audience - why?? - and so on. It makes me dizzy, it creates rhythms that conflict with those of the music, and I am so distracted by the visual antics that I have no idea what I've heard, or whether I liked it.
Not this one. The director clearly took great pains to make what he showed me make musical sense. What is more, he often highlighted musicians who were playing counterpoints and sub-themes as the conductor brought out an interesting inner line in the music. They must have gone over the score together and planned out the shot sequences very carefully, and very intelligently. I found the visual aspect added greatly to my appreciation of the music and the performances.
I have heard Argerich play the Ravel G Major Concerto many times over the years. She just keeps getting better. She plays the piece on this DVD as someone who knows it so intimately that every phrase is approached like the delighted greeting of an old and dear friend. Temirkanov conducts the same way, leading, shaping, sculpting, with patience and appreciation at every turn.
Which brings me to the ultimate wherefore. Both pianist and conductor are mature adults with many years of experience behind them. The knowledge and understanding of the music, of their craft, and of their purpose are not to be found in the young. This is not to say that the young cannot make wonderfully beautiful music. But there is nothing in this world like the playing of someone who is able to draw on a lifetime of acquired wisdom and take the time to smile about it.
This is a DVD to which I will return again and again, not only for the beautiful music and playing, but for lessons in beauty.