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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major Op.15 (1796-7) [39.10]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major D.485 (1816) [31.08]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major K.482 (1785) [36.06]
Cappella Andrea Barca/Sir András Schiff (piano)
rec. Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation, Salzburg, Austria, 24 & 25 January 2015
Video 16:9, Audio, Stereo, DTS 96/24 5.1 surround and PCM 2.0 Stereo, Region 0
Reviewed in surround
C MAJOR 736508 DVD [109:00]

There is no doubt that these performances are as beautifully moulded and lyrical as one could wish in every respect. Schiff holds one rapt throughout and that includes the lovely Schubert Fifth, which stands tall as a great classical symphony in the presence of two great piano concertos. If I had attended this Salzburg concert I would certainly want this disc (or the Blu-ray equivalent) as a memento of the splendid evening of music-making. Perhaps the Beethoven is almost too beautiful; one misses the forceful side of this piece, but it is a perfectly acceptable view. The Schubert is played with particular sensitivity; this is no minor work and the emotional weight of some parts, the andante obviously, but also the allegro vivace finale, is fully displayed. I am ambivalent towards Mozart on the modern piano, since for me it is anachronistic, but Schiff won me over by his attention to detail in the orchestral part as well as his own solo lines. He absolutely never over-emphasizes the piano, so Mozart's gorgeous music for the wind section, in the finale for example, is given proper weight. The difference in timing between my fortepiano performance by Brautigam on BIS, and Schiff, is an amazing 6 minutes, the amazing thing being that Schiff doesn't seem overlong; such is the musical insight into phrasing and dynamics that he and the orchestra present. Both views are valid, of course, and after hearing Schiff I would not be without either.

Mention of the wind section takes me to the orchestra. The Cappella Andrea Barca is yet another of these pick-up orchestras so loved by conductors (and here a pianist). Andrea Barca himself was a very obscure Italian composer, who seems to have worked with Mozart in some way, maybe as a keyboard page-turner in performances, and who worked hard to perform and promote the piano music. The use of Barca's name is appropriate for a group, working with a top pianist like Schiff, though not so for an orchestra playing on modern instruments as here. The Cappella consists of top orchestral and chamber players, who have opted to work regularly with Schiff, especially on his cycle of Mozart concerti in Salzburg. The flautist, for example, is from the Vienna Philharmonic, the orchestra leader was in the Vegh Quartet and is now in the Quartet Mosa´ques, the principal bassoon is from the Berlin Philharmonic, and so it goes on. They have been with Schiff for almost 20 years and it shows; they are 'with' him in the same way that the Lucerne Festival Orchestra was 'with' Abbado. The eye contact, the smiles of satisfaction, on video this is all on display, plus that they all enjoy his music-making.

This DVD is well directed and has a decent picture and more-than-decent sound, as a result, one assumes, of the DTS 96/24 audio format, which is effectively high-resolution surround. On my big screen the lack of video definition is only too obvious, which is why one should purchase the Blu-ray instead, if the format suits your system. There are no extras here but with a full length concert of this quality who needs more?

Dave Billinge



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