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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very generous disc of fine historic performances well restored, 27 Jan 2013
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Schumann: Takacs Quartet (Symphonic Etudes/ Piano Quintet) (Takács Quartet/ Zoltán Kocsis/ András Schiff) (Euroarts: 2066828) [DVD] [1991] [NTSC] [2012] (DVD)
The music on this disc was recorded in 1991 and has been remarkably well restored. The piano quintet opus 44 (wrongly described on the cover as Schumann's quintet no. 44!) is in widescreen format but the remainder are in 4:3 format. The imaging is crisp and of good colour particularly when the recording date/s are taken in consideration. The sound is in stereo but this is comparable with CDs of that period and should give that level of audio satisfaction. The musicians involved are all of known high calibre and give consistently excellent performances.The disc features two highly respected pianists and the renowned Takacs Quartet.

Zoltan Kocsis starts the disc with 3 pieces linked to the idea of children. The first is a fine performance of Kinderszenen which were descriptive pieces made up of images relating to childhood topics but intended for adults to play. These receive perceptive and finely drawn performances with the faster pieces being notable for crisp and energetic playing and the slower pieces played with great sensitivity. The dynamic and dramatic range of these pieces is refreshingly explored with all the spontaneity of fresh discovery.

Kocsis has previously received awards for his Debussy playing on CD. The performance of the Children's Corner Suite, another set intended for adults to play, receives a performance of that calibre. The same characteristics and care for detail that marked the Kinderszenen is readily apparent here and this is another fine set of performances.

Kocsis completes the solo element of his playing on this disc with music written by Bartok for children to play as studies. This music is based on Bartok's folk song collection and the selection here is known as 'For Children vol.1.' Kocsis has made several fine CD discs of Bartok's music, all of which have received much critical praise, and this is played to the same standards as the rest of his recital.

Andras Schiff is then featured with similarly finely graded and perceptive performances of Schumann's Kreisleriana and the Etudes Symphoniques. Schiff is not a demonstrative pianist by nature but he is both meticulous and thoughtful. It is these characteristics that inform his interpretations of these two works and which amount to a very satisfying musical experience. The two contrasting sides of Schumann's character are well illustrated in the Kreisleriana.

The Symphonic Etudes exist in a number of forms. Reduced versions were printed during his lifetime with the differences being in the order and balance of the etudes. Five further variations were initially removed but later added posthumously and it this full version that is now regularly played. The exact places for inserting the 5 posthumous variations remains a matter of debate. In this case Schiff only includes the 5th extra variation and adds it at the very end rather like a postlude, or even a separate composition altogether. His performance still remains musically rewarding if a little curtailed in terms of current thinking as regards the more regular inclusion of all the posthumous etudes.

The disc is completed with a forwardly moving and very dramatic reading of the fine piano quintet. This is a major work of a similar importance and quality to the Brahms piano quintet. The Takacs Quartet deliver, with the aid of Kocsis on piano, a performance that would compare favourably with any other on CD disc in terms of dramatic music making. The visual element adds a palpable frisson to the nature of this undeniably exciting performance which is delivered with absolute surety of technique and control of tone at the many points of tension. It makes for a thrilling end to a very fine and generously filled disc.

In conclusion, I would suggest that this disc warrants very serious consideration for purchasers looking for a generous overview of Schumann's chamber writing plus some fine Debussy and well played Bartok and where musical values are consistently high with a recording quality of a very good standard for its period. This is not a very old historical issue so the recording quality should satisfy all but those who demand the very latest in HD technology.

Thus the combination of high quality musical performance, good recording quality and generous program make for a very tempting purchase option that may be hard for future discs to match.
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