Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K. 466 [30:26]
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 [29.51]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat Major, K. 482 [35:21]
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488 [26:59]
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 [31:36]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503 [31:10]
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 [31:00]
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat Major, K. 595 [31:42]
Berliner Philharmoniker/Daniel Barenboim (conductor and piano)
Directed by George Moorse, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Klaas Rusticus.
Picture: NTSC/4:3; Sound: PCM stereo; Region: 0 (worldwide)
rec. 1986-1989, Siemens-Villa, Berlin
EUROARTS 2066094 Blu-ray [255:00]

These concertos were filmed between 1986 and 1989 on 35mm film, and were transferred to HD video for this release. While parts are a bit grainy, others look nearly perfect, even though they all have slightly faded colour. Originally shot in 4:3, they have been transferred to 16:9 yet the letter-boxing is barely noticeable. The sound is excellent throughout, though the different rooms in which the concertos were recorded have a great effect on the resulting sound. For example, the first concerto, No. 20, has wonderfully roomy sound, but the second, No. 21, has sound that is flatter and less expansive; its picture is also much grainier. The only issue with the video is that since this is provided, on the Blu-Ray disc, in 1080i, not 1080p, there are some motion artefacts visible when Barenboim is moving his hands while conducting, and when the camera follows the movement of his head.
These minor issues with video and sound quality do not detract from the performances. Daniel Barenboim conducts from the piano, playing the concertos without scores, and it is obvious that he is fully immersed in this music. The (all-male) Berlin Philharmonic goes all out, providing some thrilling moments when the entire orchestra is playing. It also has the subtlety to make the more intimate parts of these works sound like chamber symphonies. Since this is standard repertoire, they seem to be very comfortable with the music, and Daniel Barenboim also seems right at home.
The size of the orchestra changes for the different concertos. For some of the concertos, such as Nos. 20, 22 and 23, the orchestra is a bit smaller than its full complement, but for Nos. 21 and 24, for example, the entire orchestra is present. This means that the performance is in a larger room. The filming in that case is less creative as there are fewer options for the cameras such as having cameras on the side. As Barenboim is conducting from the piano, there are many shots of his back; both when the orchestra is playing alone, and when he is playing. It seems a bit odd to have a camera slowly zoom in on his back as he plays. In some of the halls there is a camera facing him but this is not the case in all of them.
The DVD version (2066098) of this disc differs little from the Blu-Ray version. The former is on two discs, but contains the same PCM stereo mix. The video is a bit less crisp, as is to be expected, and since these recordings were initially made on film, the Blu-Ray version is the better bet if you have a large TV.
With more than four hours of music, and with some wonderful performances of Mozart's last 8 piano concertos, this is a real bargain. Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic are a good match for these works, and these restorations provide excellent audio and video quality.
Kirk McElhearn
Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville
The video quality of this “historic” recording is excellent, and the performances delightful.