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An invaluable resource compiled from SD television broadcasts and making use of the extended capacity of the Blu-ray format,
This review is from: Beethoven: Collectors Edition Piano [Glenn Gould, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli] [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
Quite apart from the considerable musical content of this disc, all of which has been seen and heard for the purposes of this review, the huge playing time probably needs some explanation for those of a sceptical disposition. The Blu-ray format has a capacity of several DVDs in just the same way that DVDs have more capacity than VHS tapes and, in an earlier generation, LP (long playing) records had much greater capacity than 78 rpm records.
The greater capacity can be used in two ways. Usually it is used to carry High Definition files which, because of their high definition, require much more capacity. However, it would be just as possible for the Blu-ray disc to use its greater capacity to have much longer playing times when the source material is of lower resolution and thus requiring less capacity per item.
That is what has happened here. The original source material is that of television broadcasts taped on video tape and at the quality associated with television broadcasts of the 1960's and 1970's. Videotape could be described as Low Definition by contrast with modern High Definition recordings. Consequently we are able to experience all that broadcast material conveniently gathered together on a single disc.
Audio-video recording has been an area of great advancement since these live broadcast recordings were made. The quality of these recordings falls far below the standards achieved by EMI for example in the 1980's or Metropolitan Munich in the 1980's-1990's. As described above, these are standard definition recordings made at a time of infancy in that area of recording. Modern standard definition recording, let alone HD recording, is vastly superior and fundamentally a totally different product in terms of recording quality. In addition, those wishing for equivalent audio recording, LP or CD source, from the 1950's will be greatly disappointed. That, however, is to miss the point entirely. These recordings derive from French broadcasting of very limited audio-video quality but of high value in terms of archive footage which is otherwise unavailable. It is on that specific basis that these recordings must be judged and will appeal mainly to collectors with that interest in mind.
Thus we are introduced to the work of the following key pianists - Glenn Gould; Arturo Michelangeli; Georges Cziffra; Wilhelm Kempff; Aldo Ciccolini; Samson Francois; Claudio Arrau; Emil Gilels; Byron Janis and Alfred Brendel. In a review of a disc of this duration and coverage it would be invidious to single out items of superior merit. However it is fair and essential to note that each soloist is well represented with some core personal repertoire and that the 'live' nature of the broadcast material ensures a degree of special frisson which, for many, will overcome the obvious deficiencies of the recordings of those times.
The 10 featured soloists average out at just over 94 minutes each although that figure is only intended to give a rough guide. They are shown playing a range of music which has been chosen as being particularly associated with their individual repertoire. Thus Michelangeli is heard in Debussy, Cziffra with Chopin and Liszt, Kempff with Beethoven and Schumann, Ciccolini with Spanish flavoured music plus Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto, Francois with Debussy plus Ravel's G major concerto and Chopin's 1st Piano Concerto, Arrau with Schumann and Beethoven, Gilels with a Russian program including Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto, Janis with Prokofiev's 3rd Piano Concerto plus Rachmaninov's Paganini Rhapsody and Brendel with Beethoven. The disc opens with a documentary about Glenn Gould followed by some Bach.
This is a collection that makes no claims of being comprehensively finite in terms of the featured pianists or their featured repertoire. What it does offer is a valuable resource chronicling the work of some of the finest exponents of piano playing from the early days of television broadcasting. As an inevitable consequence, it also offers purchasers the chance to observe these famous pianists in an earlier stage in their careers and at a time when some were still in the process of establishing themselves or confirming their eminence. As such it deserves the gratitude of interested collectors who will find it to offer very good value as well as musical illumination.
This collection will be of great interest to those who have an interest in historical recordings and these have been gathered together and presented as a very convenient collection similar to that of the Classic Archive of Strings released recently. The use of the Blu-ray format with its larger capacity has been imaginatively used to maximise access to a considerable amount of historical material which might otherwise have been lost to collectors of such material.