Güher and Süher Pekinel - Live in Concert
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concert for Two Pianos in E flat, K365 a (1779) [24:47].
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos b (1932) [20:08]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Scaramouche, Op. 165b (1930) Braziliera c [2:41].
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Sonata in F minor for Two Pianos, Op. 34b d (1864) [33:35]
Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994)
Paganini Variations d (1941) [13:07]
Güher and Süher Pekinel (pianos);
aEnglish Chamber Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis;
bZürich Chamber Orchestra/Muhai Tang;
rec. aCadogan Hall, London, 23 May 2007, bcTonhalle, Zürich, New Year’s Concert, 2007, dLucerne Piano Festival, 20 November 2006
With bonus items by Rachmaninov, Bach and Vivaldi. Also includes a short film, “Double Life” [16:10] and a Bach Jazz Trailer.
ARTHAUS 101349 [88:00 + 42:00 extras]

This is very much a value for money DVD, with music from a variety of concert situations spanning Bach to Lutoslawski. Throughout the experience, one is continually impressed by the Pekinels’ love of this music.

The Mozart is a joy. The two pianos are one in front of the other as opposed to opposite each other - as the Labèques opted for at last year’s Proms. The bright, civilised setting of Cadogan Hall seems perfect for this life-affirming piece. Interplay is joyous, the sisters’ textbook techniques entirely at the service of style. Staccati laugh infectiously, and the accompaniment under Sir Colin is miraculously fresh. Only the first movement cadenza loses momentum. The second movement’s exchanges are well portrayed here, with one camera fading as the other pianist begins her reply to the first. The slow movement seems slower than the prescribed Andante but contains many moments of magic; the finale is stately yet with plenty of energy, and the cadenza here seems infinitely more involving than that of the first movement.

Somehow their playing puts me in mind of the LP of Mozart duets Christoph Eschenbach and Justus Frantz put together – not slavish to performance practice, yet ever striving to get to the heart of Mozart.

The New Year’s Concert 2007 from Zürich kindly places the names of the sisters over the actual people as they sit down at their respective pianos, so we know which is which. The sisters seem to be telepathically linked – in some shots you can see their mutual reactions to passages in which they both play and the synchronous nature of their facial expressions is remarkable. They enter into the spirit of the Poulenc superbly, just as much if not more so than the Labèques in this piece, and also capture the Poulenc’s magic in the slower sections. The actual picture seems grainier than the concert in London. The finale is a miracle of repeated-note articulation amid an atmosphere of positively feline play. The encore is from Milhaud’s Scaramouche, with added percussion - the maracas make it. From the pianists, it is beautifully, yet festively, played. Only the tambourinist looks mildly embarrassed.

The opening concert of the 2006 Lucerne Piano Festival (20 November 2006) featured the two piano version of the Brahms Op. 34 Piano Quintet - under the catalogue number Op. 34b, and a version which predates the work in its final form. The Pekinels give a reading that can only be described as delicious and properly Brahmsian in bass-rich sound married to careful delineation of the unfolding structure. The sheer tranquillity of the opening of the Andante, un poco adagio, is delightful, a Brahmsian rocking that soothes the soul. The contained energy that begins the finale is magnificent. A shame the final camera-pan to the back of the hall is so jerky and unprofessional.

The Lutoslawski is tremendous. Both players revel in this thorny, spiky take on the famous theme. Tremendous glissandi and a real sense of involvement make this a memorable account; presumably it was an encore.

The “extras” are interviews with the sisters and a bonus selection which is listed in the DVD menu as “Trailers”. The second movement of Rachmaninov’s “Suite No. 5” is lovely and lush without descending into mush, while Bach/Loussier is intriguing. Loussier plays minus any score, while the sisters play from carefully notated sheets. The excerpt is faded out mid-stream. Next up is the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV1062 with the ECO and Davis - presumably from the same Cadogan Hall concert. It is a delightfully pointed performance, but note that the DVD menu gives this, also, as ‘arranged Loussier’!

The Vivaldi “Spring” that follows most definitely is Loussier, and great fun it is, too. Excepts from the film “Double Life” by Hanno Rinke follow - the film is in German, but subtitles are available - wherein we hear extra excerpts from the Schubert F-minor Fantasie - a beautifully moulded performance of the opening. They discuss their education in Frankfurt, and their time in Philadelphia. The film recycles excerpts already heard in the sampler and in the main body of the programme, though: Mozart and Bach/Loussier, among others. Gershwin’s Second Prelude is seen performed on a smoky stage. The Pekinels’ project for young people is also mentioned.. A short Bach trailer produced by Abdullah Oguz at the Byzantine Cistern, Istanbul - beautifully and intriguingly filmed - rounds off the extras.

The packaging for this release leaves something to be desired. Card covers will fray easily, and even though the bonus is that this approach takes up less shelf space, it somehow feels second division. Nevertheless, recommended.

Colin Clarke

This is very much a value for money DVD. Throughout the experience, one is continually impressed by the Pekinels’ love of this music.