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Podleś & Ohlsson: Live at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
4 Pieces for Piano, Op.4
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Songs and Dances of Death
The Nursery
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
4 Preludes
She is as Beautiful as Noon
Everything Passes
, Op.28
Ewa Podleś (contralto)
Garrick Ohlsson (piano)
Sound Format Dolby Digital 2.0. Picture Format 16:9 PAL. Subtitles Polish, English. DVD Format DVD5
rec. 2011
DUX DVD 9883 [65:00]

This recital was filmed in the Fryderyk Chopin University in Warsaw in December 2011. Ewa Podleś and Garrick Ohlsson formed a formidable partnership and performed and recorded together quite often. She, Warsaw born, and he - the 1970 Chopin International Piano Competition winner in the same city - have been captured in this film with straight-forward fidelity. The DVD is easy to navigate and the camera angles are clean, and unshowy, and not given to inventiveness - that's to say, no superimposition of images, or artful fades, or shots of the ceiling, or statues of Polish luminaries half a mile down the road. I'd best characterise the camera direction as utilitarian, but without a prejudicial implication.

These clean angles and pretty good picture clarity allow the viewer to concentrate on the matter in hand without distractions. Ohlsson is on first, dispatching Prokofiev's Four Pieces, Op.4 with considerable virtuosic intensity. Throughout the recital he plays without a scrap of music but whilst some singers might have blanched Podleś remains supremely confident. It helps that he is a very watchful, listening accompanist, often waiting for her or anticipating her breaths with closely focused concentration, eyes on her for longer and more often than most other pianists would dare. She wears a sparkly black dress for the Mussorgsky and has a battery of expressive gestures to accompany the journey of the Songs and Dances of Death. She is a very visual performer, and one really gets the sense of her operatic power and intensity in Trepak in particular. Each song is captioned. Ohlsson then plays two Rachmaninov Preludes - well, the two. Maybe he could have included a less well-known one.

Podleś returns for Mussorgsky's The Nursery, having swapped her black 'dress of death' for a red 'dress of life' - or perhaps that's me being fanciful. Hands clasped together she's now in pleading, yielding mood, pointing, scolding, prayerful at bedtime and also quite funny too. She even mimes riding on the stick horse in the penultimate song. The audience wants an encore of course, so Podleś and Ohlsson perform two Rachmaninov songs - She is as Beautiful as Noon, and Everything Passes, Op.28.

The booklet documentation is helpful and in English and Polish.

This is an enjoyable hour-long recital. Both musicians are splendid interpreters and their ensemble is excellent throughout.

Jonathan Woolf


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