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Classic performances appropriately fitting within the 'Classic Archive' series on this DVD,
This review is from: Murray Perahia Plays Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos [DVD]  (DVD)
This series of discs, available on blu-ray as here, and also on DVD, is intended to bring revered classic recordings into the modern age of replay on either Blu-ray or DVD format. It is not intended to offer modern technology in terms of HD recording and playback expertise. This has been confirmed as the intention of the series by a representative of Euroarts. The title 'Classic Archive' is a clear statement of intent that potential purchasers need to note.
It is best, therefore for reviewers to consider them as offering more convenient playback formats for modern systems but judged within the context of archive material. It will be on that basis that this disc will be considered.
These recordings were made from 'live' broadcasts made by the BBC using videotape, as opposed to film, as the signal carrier. Indeed the first commercial issue of these recordings was on VHS. The quality of both sound and image are therefore of about the level of standard definition television broadcasts of 1988. This falls considerably below the audio quality of CD discs of the time. Imaging is not very sharp and the stereo sound is more of general spread, possibly two track mono, rather than being specifically stereo. Both sound and image quality fall well below the 1967 studio recording made by Backhaus and the VPO for example and also available on a Euroarts DVD.
However, those considerations are not the main point of the issue.
What we have here is a renowned Classical period pianist caught fully engaged in a series of 'live' concerts and playing concertos with which he had achieved considerable international recognition. In this he is expertly and attentively supported by Neville Marriner and his Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra.
The scale of the performances is correctly kept within Classical period boundaries and this applies to both the pacing and phrasing of all the players as well as the size of the orchestra. Without exception these performances are lively and vibrant and the last movements of each concerto in particular have a great sense of rhythmical flair and sheer 'joie de vivre.' Slow movements are played with all the poetry and delicacy that Perahia is famed for.
Although falling far below the recorded quality of the Perahia/Haitink combination of these five concertos, they succeed in making those seem rather dull and heavy-footed by comparison. These may lack the recorded sophistication of those alternatives but they more than make up for that in being really alive 'live' performances.
There are now rival sets of these concertos on Blu-ray and with the added advantage of HD resolution. Barenboim and Buchbinder are two main contenders here. Perahia offers a more sparkling account than Buchbinder and a less driven account than Barenboim. Those two discs deserve their high rating as modern performances with all the advantages of modern recording technologies. Perahia offers an alternative and more genteel view but with a clear classical strength. His recording does not compete, but as the opening paragraph to this review explains, that is not the intention of the release.
I would suggest that this disc will be of great interest to those with a particular interest in this pianist and for whom compromises in sound and vision will not weigh heavily. Those who want fine performances in the best HD technology would be best advised to look elsewhere.