Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No.5 Op.73, ‘Emperor’
The Ruins of Athens: Overture Op.113
Etude in F major Op.10 No.8
Slavonic Dance in A flat major, Op.46 No.3
Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Concertgebouw Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
rec. live, Lucerne Festival, September 2011, KKL Luzern, Concerthall
Filmed in HD. Picture Format, NTSC 16:9. Sound Formats PCM Stereo DTS 5.1. Region Code, 0
C MAJOR DVD 710108 [110:00]
This concert was recorded at the Lucerne Festival in September 2011. Multiple camera angles ensure that a genuine cinematic experience is on hand, the better to unfold the narrative of the programme, a broadly conventional one without any reportorial surprises.
Not that this suggests convention in other senses. Conductor Andris Nelsons wears a trademark untucked black shirt - no white tie and tails for Nelsons. He conducts with many a sweeping gesture, and many an unchecked smile and grin. The overture to The Ruins of Athens gets things off to an athletic start, with plenty of close-up camera shots of orchestral soloists. Then we have the Emperor Concerto. Yefim Bronfman is not a man to dally with leisure wear. More lugubrious than Béla Lugosi, more furrowed than Edward G. Robinson, he is the Nero Wolfe of pianism: bulky but beady.
I’ve always admired this Epicurean pianist, though he can be somewhat stolid on occasion. There are passages where he alternates between elegance and stolidity on this occasion. And despite Nelsons’s boyish, wide-eyed encouragement, the concerto never quite achieves a true stature. Admirers of conductorial antics will enjoy, however, the moment when Nelsons transfers the baton to his left hand and hammers out the rhythm with his right: he has clearly absorbed the utility of the pneumatic drill. Later on in the finale he goes fly fishing, though the baton’s darting progress is not sufficient truly to energise the orchestra. Throughout all this Bronfman remains imperturbable, alternately refined and powerful, but in the end, I feel, not quite at his best. Maybe for all Nelsons’ glitter, it was not a true meeting of aesthetic principles. Unshackled, Bronfman returns for an encore and lo and behold, he plays Chopin’s Etude in F major quite beautifully. This is the real Bronfman.
Scheherazade is notable, in filming terms, for the excellently directed series of shots of, in particular, wind principals. The results have been well edited to ensure maximum comprehensibility when relating sound and vision. The performance is technically extremely fine and interpretatively too it often impresses. The leader’s solo is convincingly played and the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s weighty sonority is capable of the deftest turns of phrase. Nelsons is cajoling and encouraging on the rostrum. In the last result, though, it lacks a sense of exultation though it doesn’t lack for heft. The encore is a Dvořák Slavonic Dance, dished out to the prosperous-looking burghers of Lucerne with relish.
As ever with DVDs I ask myself two questions, assuming technical matters (as here) are fine: firstly, is this performance of some interest in respect of repertoire or historic status, and second, will I play it again? That I answer ‘no’ and ‘no’ is not meant to disparage the performances or the excellent package generally. It’s more a practical response to the fact that time is short, and DVD disc drives take time to load.
An excellent package generally.
Masterwork Index: Beethoven Piano concerto 5 ~~ Scheherazade
see also review of Blu-ray version by Dan Morgan