This concert was the second of two featuring the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons and was held at the Lucerne Festival in September 2011.
The program features three major works which together make for a very satisfying program. The concert opens with a performance of Beethoven's Ruins of Athens Overture and which clearly displays Nelson's conducting style as being physically very involved with the music making of the players. It is easy to see why his obvious enthusiasm would encourage considerable levels of commitment from the players and why he has attained such prominence at such a young age.
The opening of the concert brings a steady performance of the overture which is markedly slower than either Beecham or Zinman taking two examples on CD from different performing generations for comparison. This preference for slower tempi is also apparent in Scheherazade. This a consequence of Nelson's tendency to linger lovingly over expressive phrases and a desire to bring out a considerable amount of orchestral detail. Admirable though this may well be, and certainly interestingly revealing, the result is to change the character of what is normally a show-piece full of excitement with high levels of adrenaline. As a result, those purchasers essentially looking for emotional fire such as can be found in Reiner's famous CD performance for example, where the final movement was reputably recorded in one scorching take, will not find it here! What they will find though is beautiful playing and a loving performance which may well suit the character of Scheherazade and her intended as opposed to the content of her story material.
On the other hand, Bronfman delivers one of the finest performances of the Beethoven 5th concerto on DVD/Blu-ray and is easily the equal of either Barenboim or Buchbinder on their discs of the complete Beethoven piano concertos and is very similar to his own CD interpretation with Zinman. By contrast with either the overture or Scheherazade, the pace is crisply maintained and as usual, Bronfman displays a complete mastery of touch and phrasing leading to much incidental variety without sacrificing drama or forward movement. It may be significant that his exciting and satisfying performance of this concerto and the Chopin etude encore both get by far the most enthusiastic applause of the recorded occasion.
The concert finishes with a sparkling performance of a Dvorak Slavonic dance encore which Nelsons conducts well up to tempo and which receives appropriate enthusiastic applause.
The recording is of a high visual and sonic standard. The imaging is crisp and detailed and is based on obvious familiarity with the recorded works. The sound is equally fine and is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and stereo.
I enjoyed this concert especially for Bronfmann's playing, for the fine orchestral response to all the pieces and the quality of the recorded sound. I will still be returning to several CD performances of the Scheherazade for more exciting renditions though. For my own taste, I can only wholeheartedly recommend this Scheherazade interpretation as an addition to more mainstream performances with offer more obvious drive and overt excitement.
I would therefore suggest that this undoubtedly finely played and recorded disc needs to be approached with some caution if your taste is for a red hot Scheherazade with plenty of Russian fire and dramatic drive.
Lately I've been looking for fresher recordings, for the improvement on sound and filming has been tremendous. No other recording can explain this better. The flawless filming and sound are a joy that stir the senses no end. So, technically speaking, the recording leaves very little or nothing to be desired. It is perfection, pure and simple. As to the music, the first piece is charming, heart warming for what is ahead. Then we have Bronfman massively impressive, sure, commanding performance. It soothes the soul to have one of your favorite pieces so delightfully played. No surprises. And none wanted. The Chopin is also superb. I adore Scherazade. So I am not a little biased. But the stunning performance, the soloists, the happiness of the conductor give the piece another layer of significance and it glitters. I felt the warmth of a very well known piece with an added bonus of greater and enhanced involvement. What a difficult piece Scherazade is! But nothing, absolutely nothing is left to be desired. The Dvorak encore closes the recording magnificently. Just the right music to send you home with light feet. And Mr. Nelsons is a joy to behold. Confident and delighted. He looks as if he would not trade his place for any on earth. His joy is almost palpable. I cannot recommend this disc warmly enough. A veritable treasure.
Recorded live one day after C Minor's disk of Andris Nelsons conducting the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony (see my review) on 5 September 2011 at the Lucerne Festival, this production is another winner. Audio and video are flawless, the camera work is quite excellent, as we have come to expect from this label.
Andris Nelsons is a highly impressive young conductor, and the Concertgebouw musicians respond brilliantly and with enthusiasm to his (mostly smiling) directions. The generous program consists of the rarely heard Ruins of Athens overture, an intriguing late Beethoven piece, the "Emperor" piano concerto with Yefim Bronfman as a powerful and energetic soloist who also provides an encore, Chopin's Etude in F Major, Rimsky-Korsakov's tone poem Scheherazade and, finally, Dvorak's Slavonic Dance in A Major as an encore. Everything is superbly played. Bronfman's conception of the Fifth Piano Concerto is robust but not without subtlety: a joy to hear. Especially exciting is the interplay between piano and orchestra (note the period timpani played with hard sticks). If I were to nitpick, the only criticism I would offer is that Bronfman's reading of the concerto does not reveal anything "new" or so far unheard to me. For some listeners, this may be for the better, as he does not seem to be given to mannerisms, deep introspection or informed by any recent research of the score (for this listen to Buchbinder's new collection of the Beethoven concertos). The Chopin is wonderfully played: glittering and full of élan. Scheherazade is not too high on my list of favorites, but Nelsons and his Dutch orchestra play it with so much conviction, elegance and color that I find it irresistible and fresh, despite some rather slow passages. Solo work is stunning in the orchestra, everything shines, and this may be among the most inspired and inspiring interpretations of an old concert warhorse. Needless to say, the Dvorak encore is on the same level of perfection. Bravo, C Major and all participants!
I enjoyed very much watching & listening to this disc. The best part of this disc is unquestionably the Scheherazade with excellent performance & outstanding audio ( especially the 4th chapter). Bravo!!!
Conductor Andris Nelsons is certainly a very carismatic person to watch. His pleasure seems to come across directly to the viewer of this DVD.I find the vision certainly increases the enjoyment and understanding of the music. The sound on DTS audio choice is of the highest quality.I will get many hours of watching and listening pleasure from this.