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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Petrushka (arr. Gyula Rácz)
Johannes BRAHMS

Liebeslieder – Waltzes Op. 52
Hans - Peter and Volker Stenzyl (piano duo)
Gyula Rácz and Uwe Arlt (percussion) (Petrushka)
Neuer Kammerchor/Kunibert Scffer (Liebeslieder)
ARTHAUS 100715 [60:00]


This DVD is designed to explore the interrelationship between music and visual images and attempts "to develop the visual aspect of music from within". The two pieces of music are very different and a very different visual approach is made for each.

In Petrushka, two pianos are arranged, slotting in next to each other so that each pianist faces the other. Each pianist has a percussion player behind him – each with a formidable range of percussion instruments. This alone forms the basis of the visual scene. However from time to time computer–generated, abstract, moving patterns of light appear, sometimes over a picture of the musicians and sometimes just against a black background.

Filming of the musicians is sometimes over the stage as a whole but often is focused in extreme close-up, perhaps on the eye of a pianist or of a shoe pressing down on the pedal of a piano. Other shots would be of percussion instruments being beaten or hit. One example is that of a triangle being struck - although strangely you could not hear the actual sound of this most penetrating of instruments!

This version for two pianos and percussion does not adhere slavishly to the orchestral edition but is designed to create a tonal landscape of its own with the diversity of orchestral shades replaced by percussive colours.

Petrushka was originally conceived as a piano concerto, and of course there are drum rolls between each act. Thus there is some aesthetic justification for the use of a piano/percussion arrangement. On the other hand the orchestral score contains many subtle effects and tonal shadings that cannot be replicated in this new version. Because the ballet is a particular favourite of mine, I found it very difficult to forget the original and I found this Video quite disturbing in effect. Perhaps however this is the effect desired! The playing was very fine, especially in the quieter passages. Just occasionally the percussion seemed too dominant for my taste but no doubt this also was by design. Altogether this was a fascinating experience in a cerebral sort of way.

The contrast in Liebeslieder could not be more evident; it was an unalloyed pleasure from beginning to end.

Liebeslieder, played here in the original version with two pianists at one piano with a small choir, is one of Brahms’ most subtle and yet approachable pieces. It was very much influenced by his early studies of Renaissance vocal polyphony.

This performance was recorded at the historical hall at Regensburg. The men and ladies of the choir are shown on two balconies with the pianists at the bottom. From time to time we are brought back to see the singers. However, much of the time, we see various images; these are mainly of a pastoral type. For example we see women walking in a forest, or a river flowing through the countryside. Sometimes we see close-ups of various old oil paintings with similar subject matters. Pretty girls are there and we see couples walking hand in hand. The images are chosen to blend in with the words of the songs and these can be displayed, in translation, as subtitles. The whole atmosphere is most pleasing. The singing and piano playing is exemplary.

The DVD is well produced with very good flow and sound; there is a booklet with useful essays on the aim of the disc and also on the two musical works.

Arthur Baker

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