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This is a very generous disc - 8 concertos totalling a 4 hour 15 minutes playing time. The early recording dates of 1986-1989 and the stereo only sound format may cause some audiophiles to have doubts, however there are many virtues associated with this issue which, for me at least, make it a very worthwhile purchase.

Barenboim was at a very fine peak of his considerable pianistic skills in the mid to late 1980s. He had previously successfully recorded all the Mozart concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra in the 1960s and 1970s for EMI and that remains a much admired set. What we have here is even more attractive in my opinion as it concentrates on the final 8 concertos which represent the pinnacle of Mozart's achievement in this field.

As in the CD set, Barenboim conducts from the keyboard and by now this was a very familiar approach for him and he is totally on top of managing both the piano playing and the conducting. The reduced Berlin Philharmonic is, in effect, playing as a chamber orchestra and this suits the music very well. There is a close rapport apparent between Barenboim and the orchestral players and it is interesting to see how many of the current players were already members of the orchestra so many years ago.

Barenboim's approach to the keyboard is lighter in style than his current playing style throughout this set and I personally find this far preferable in the context of these concertos. The playing is crisply rhythmical and forward moving in its general pace. Nevertheless Barenboim, being a natural romantic, is still able to include some of that feeling throughout and many will prefer this to the strict Authentic Movement's period approach, especially as it was performed in those days - far less yielding than as performed today. This, in general terms, is more along the lines of the interpretations of Murray Perahia in his close to definitive CD set but with a small element of added roundness of expression. It is not as powerful as Uchida with Tate or Brendel with Marriner for example, both admired alternative CD interpretations.

The imaging is crisp throughout and the whole set is well-defined although the imaging has been rather over-lightened so there is some loss of tonal depth and burn-out of highlight details. These `live' recordings were done without audience and are, in effect, similar to studio recordings within a more attractive setting and added spontaneity. There is some slippage of focus from time to time and there is not the depth of field that we experience with modern HD cameras. Some faster movements can lead to traces of horizontal movement blur but this has not been an impossible problem for me. Colour saturation and tonal depth is a little weak as mentioned above but more than satisfactory given the recording's age. The stereo sound is likewise good for its period and should give plenty of satisfaction to all those who do not demand surround sound, genuine or reprocessed, on all Blu-rays. The justification for the description of true HD lies in the fact that these recordings were made in widescreen format on 35mm film which was far superior to television recordings of that time. This justification for true HD seems a little disingenuous to me.

Overall I have found this to be a very satisfying issue which needs to be considered as an historical release of importance. As mentioned above, Barenboim was at the peak of his considerable pianistic skills in those days and his style of playing these fine Mozart concertos seems `spot-on' to my ears. I would personally prefer this set of the last 8 concertos to the CD set of the whole series, not least because of the considerable advantages experienced in watching the music making as well as just hearing it.

On musical grounds alone this would be a 5 star release in my opinion and its attendant generosity of playing time reinforces that view. So despite the age limitations of the recording I would be inclined to stick with the 5 star rating although accepting that some audiophiles would probably want to drop a star because of the relative technical shortfalls in terms of modern HD recording quality. Still, what do they expect from a recording from this period of time? In my opinion we are lucky that it is as good as it is!

...........................................

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22 comments|10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is a very generous disc - 8 concertos totalling a 4 hour 15 minutes playing time. The early recording dates of 1986-1989 and the stereo only sound format may cause some audiophiles to have doubts, however there are many virtues associated with this issue which, for me at least, make it a very worthwhile purchase.

Barenboim was at a very fine peak of his considerable pianistic skills in the mid to late 1980s. He had previously successfully recorded all the Mozart concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra in the 1960s and 1970s for EMI and that remains a much admired set. What we have here is even more attractive in my opinion as it concentrates on the final 8 concertos which represent the pinnacle of Mozart's achievement in this field.

As in the CD set, Barenboim conducts from the keyboard and by now this was a very familiar approach for him and he is totally on top of managing both the piano playing and the conducting. The reduced Berlin Philharmonic is, in effect, playing as a chamber orchestra and this suits the music very well. There is a close rapport apparent between Barenboim and the orchestral players and it is interesting to see how many of the current players were already members of the orchestra so many years ago.

Barenboim's approach to the keyboard is lighter in style than his current playing style throughout this set and I personally find this far preferable in the context of these concertos. The playing is crisply rhythmical and forward moving in its general pace. Nevertheless Barenboim, being a natural romantic, is still able to include some of that feeling throughout and many will prefer this to the strict Authentic Movement's period approach, especially as it was performed in those days - far less yielding than as performed today. This, in general terms, is more along the lines of the interpretations of Murray Perahia in his close to definitive CD set but with a small element of added roundness of expression. It is not as powerful as Uchida with Tate or Brendel with Marriner for example, both admired alternative CD interpretations.

The imaging is crisp throughout and the whole set is well-defined although the imaging has been rather over-lightened so there is some loss of tonal depth and burn-out of highlight details. These `live' recordings were done without audience and are, in effect, similar to studio recordings within a more attractive setting and added spontaneity. There is some slippage of focus from time to time and there is not the depth of field that we experience with modern HD cameras. Some faster movements can lead to traces of horizontal movement blur but this has not been an impossible problem for me. Colour saturation and tonal depth is a little weak as mentioned above but more than satisfactory given the recording's age. The stereo sound is likewise good for its period and should give plenty of satisfaction to all those who do not demand surround sound, genuine or reprocessed, on all Blu-rays. The justification for the description of true HD lies in the fact that these recordings were made in widescreen format on 35mm film which was far superior to television recordings of that time. This justification for true HD seems a little disingenuous to me.

Overall I have found this to be a very satisfying issue which needs to be considered as an historical release of importance. As mentioned above, Barenboim was at the peak of his considerable pianistic skills in those days and his style of playing these fine Mozart concertos seems `spot-on' to my ears. I would personally prefer this set of the last 8 concertos to the CD set of the whole series, not least because of the considerable advantages experienced in watching the music making as well as just hearing it.

On musical grounds alone this would be a 5 star release in my opinion and its attendant generosity of playing time reinforces that view. So despite the age limitations of the recording I would be inclined to stick with the 5 star rating although accepting that some audiophiles would probably want to drop a star because of the relative technical shortfalls in terms of modern HD recording quality. Still, what do they expect from a recording from this period of time? In my opinion we are lucky that it is as good as it is!

........................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

Excellent, Even-Handed Review, Ian! (U.K. review)

............................................
22 comments|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 11 November 2012
D. Barenboim makes these recordings to an exellent performance together with Berlin Philharmonics. But camera is not always in harmony with the music itself.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 20 May 2012
When you buy this disk, you'll get an incredible amount of music for your money (255 minutes), originally filmed in 35 mm and transferred into very decent (stereo) audio and clear, but somewhat soft video. Be aware that these are not exactly "live" recordings made in the Berlin Siemens Villa - an ornate venue - from 1986-1989, at least not in today's common usage: there is no audience, everything is beautifully "staged" without the excitement (and obvious risks) of a concert/audience setting. Perhaps these recordings could be called dress rehearsals, if they were not quite so perfect. Let's call them meditations for piano and orchestra... Regardless of their original intent, they turn out to be an invaluable documentation of Daniel Barenboim at the apex of his powers as a pianist in intense (mostly unsmiling) collaboration with the BPO musicians (apart from the occasional token female still all-male at the time) who had just recovered from the Karajan decades and display both razor-sharp precision as a group and impressive solo work by the first desks. The orchestra has been slimmed down in size respective with the individual works, but may at times still appear fairly large for today's standards of Mozart performance. Barenboim's approach is strictly "classicist": he eschews any kind of extemporized, ad-lib ornamentation or embellishments, as they are practiced by more period-aware pianists nowadays. He sticks to the letter of the score, except in the cadenzas, many of which are his own and very good. Conducting from the piano is still one of his preferences, and he does quite well here, with a bit of help from the different concertmasters. It is important to note that piano and orchestra are equal partners in these performances, both in the way they are recorded and in Barenboim's direction which never fails to showcase an instrumental solo voice and gives full rein to the orchestra in the tutti passages. This sets them pleasantly apart from many contemporary recordings with miserably over-miked pianos and sonically undernourished ensembles.

As to the individual concerts, I'll not go into much detail. Each and every one is played very well, with plenty of energy, power, elegance and nuance. My favorites are numbers 21 (emotional without being sentimental, spunky in the finale), 23 (stylish, nimble, reminiscent of the late Monique Haas), 24 (muscular, dramatic, foreshadowing Beethoven), 25 (festive and radiant with the exception of the somewhat tentative finale) and 26 (obviously one of the earlier recordings, spontaneous and well shaped in all its dynamics). Number 20, the most frequently played and, at the same time, the most enigmatic of the lot, is very fine, but here I prefer both Mitsuko Uchida and Stefan Vladar (with Hartmut Haenchen) on DVD, and in number 22 my vote goes to David Fray (with Jaap van Zweden) who has more subtlety. It is interesting to compare his earlier recording of 22 with Barenboim's later (2006) remake in the Prague European Concert. I could go on and on, but we are now on highly subjective ground. In sum: get these recordings and you will enjoy many hours of exquisite Mozart.
0Comment|4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 12 October 2012
This DVD offers in addition to the marvelous music (it is hard to understand that one person could compose such a variation of incredible music) a first class, refined performance. The only negative side is the stereo-only sound, but understandable in view of the date of the recoding. A must for the Mozart and Barenboim fans.
0Comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 November 2013
The music is beautiful and beautifully played. I am not convinced that seeing it makes much difference, though I cannot distinguish Blu-ray sound from CD sound, and after all I can always close my eyes if I want to concentrate on the music.
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on 31 July 2014
The 5 stars are for the performances. Was the camera person superglued to one spot ?
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on 27 February 2016
thanks
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