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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.54 (1841)
Concert Allegro with Introduction Op.134 for piano and orchestra (1853)
Introduction and Allegro appassionato Op.92 for piano and orchestra (1848)
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Christian Zacharias piano and conductor
MDG DVD-Audio MDG 940 1033 5 [61.49]


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I am not sure what Dabringhaus und Grimm think they are up to introducing yet another playback standard before the dust has even remotely settled on the current audio format "war" between SACD and DVD-A. This disc claims to be playable in DVD-A, Dolby Digital, Stereo, plus something called 2+2+2 which is claimed to use the six discrete channels of DVD-A to produce left, right, left-back, right-back, and a pair of "height" channels. I refer interested parties to their website where all this is extolled if not quite explained. From my point of view (after I had worked out how to play it, which may be my problem not theirís, but all other DVD-A discs I have use the video display to allow sound format selection, here there is no video) it all sounds very good indeed and gives a convincing aural image in "normal" DVD-Audio surround. I apologise for not having ceiling speakers and being unable to judge this aspect! I wonder if D&G might care to comment on all this?

As for the music, these are attractive, if low key, performances. The coupling of all Schumannís concerted music for piano is a sensible one and I wonder Iíd not come across it before. The key item is the famous concerto and it is a relief to find it not coupled with the Grieg! My benchmark performance for Schumannís Op.54 is Dinu Lipatti. His performance is so fiery that poor Christian Zacharias is left out in the cold with his elegant but underpowered rendering. The Lausanne orchestra seems pale too by comparison with the 1948 Philharmonia. However, one cannot begin to compare the clarity of this excellent modern recording with the noisy and recessed historic one from EMI. Excellent detailed notes by Egon Voss and an intriguing consideration of the piece by no less than Bruno Walter make up the musical documentation, which is completed by several paragraphs trying to explain their new sound standard. I think this is where we came in!

Dave Billinge

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