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Decca Phase 4
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58 (1808) [33:03]*
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73 (1877) [37:33]
Vienna Symphony Orchestra*, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Karl Böhm.
rec. Studio Rosenhügel, Vienna, 3-9 April 1967*; Grosser Musikvereinsaal,
Vienna, 3-9 April 1967. NTSC Colour 4:3 Region Code 0
EUROARTS 2072058 [73:00]
this DVD will act as a reminder of the power of the medium.
These are two fine performances by two great artists - and here
we have the opportunity to study their most intimate movements
in performance. Piano students will surely glean volumes
from Backhaus's sovereign technique; conducting students
may find less to admire in Böhm's rather staid manner and
gestures, but nevertheless can observe a major podium figure
of the past at close quarters.
set-up in the studio is typical for the period, with the
conductor rather isolated from his fellows. In these rather
sterile conditions, Backhaus and his accompanists create
a sense of wonder. There is a true inevitability about the
first movement; on a straight play-through, though, the second
movement begins far too abruptly. Instructive to compare
this with Backhaus's much earlier performance of 1929/30
with the LSO under Sir Landon Ronald. I used the Andante
transfer for this purpose. There the first movement takes
17:06 against the later performance's 17:52, and the orchestra
is significantly recessed. There is more delectable impetuosity
earlier on, it is true.
sits very low, his contact with the piano seemingly enhanced
by this. Most importantly, there is a tremendous weight of
experience that shines through in 1967. Camera work is acceptable,
although the shot of the piano's insides at the first movememt's
cadenza is rather fanciful.
contributions to the famous slow movements are miracles of
concentration. The piano sounds absolutely lovely although
I remain aware some might find it very slightly muffled.
The pianist's gentle approach bleeds into the finale. It
is here the camera-work can be rather distracting, as it
pans around. But most interesting of all is Backhaus's use
of his own huge cadenza in this last movement.
Brahms Second has a distinctly open-air feel about it. There
is some glorious horn playing … and not only at the opening,
either. What really marks out this Brahms is the fact that
despite its intensity, one can still hear all the lines with
an almost analytical clarity. This feeling of analysis in
sound carries over very noticeably to the second movement,
where the conductor seems intent on showing us Brahms' motivic
workings. He also injects a substantial amount of drama into
this Adagio non troppo before letting his Vienna soloists
loose to reveal their delicacy in the Allegretto grazioso.
Finest of all, perhaps, is the finale, fast but blessed with
wonderful string definition and with real drive and excitement
before the end.
were originally Unitel films - directed by Herbert Seggelke
and Arne Arnbom. They provide a TV screen-sized window onto
another world, and we should be grateful to have the opportunity
to relish these warm performances.
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