Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1-5 [Wiener Philharmoniker/Buchbinder] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo; DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Chinese
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: C Major
- Blu-ray Release Date: January 31, 2012
- List Price: $39.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
In the 18th and early 19th century, it was not unusual for the keyboard soloist to conduct the orchestra. In this respect, Rudolf Buchbinder is paying homage to a time-honored tradition as he leads the Wiener Philharmoniker through a survey of one of the greatest libraries of piano concertos, the five that Beethoven composed over two decades (1788 – 1809). The Beethoven Piano Concertos, when heard in chronological order, trace a substantial development from the classical to the romantic tradition, moving from Mozart and Haydn to a musical language entirely unique. Most concertgoers are more familiar with the last 3 concertos but there is a tremendous amount of magic in the first two as well. All of this would be unimportant if these were not greatly informed interpretations by a soloist who has inhabited these works over a long and successful career. There is great synergy between pianist and orchestra so that the contact is never lost, even when Buchbinder is obviously focusing on his instrument. The consistency of these performances is also obvious, with scrupulous attention to detail and tempi. C Major’s sound and video recording is at the highest level for these 2011 performances.
This is, simply put, a beautifully shot and directed video in all respects. Close ups of Buchbinder and his players lend an immediacy to the proceedings. The color palette is beautiful and detail, on occasion, astonishing. There is enough camera movement to maintain momentum which is important when watching nearly 4 hours of music-making. The panoramic views also exploit the incredible beauty of the hall.
I have not heard much better balance between soloist and orchestra when it comes to the piano repertoire. This is due somewhat to the scaling down of forces to those of the original scores and the concern that conductor Buchbinder has with clarity of instrumental voices. You get to hear virtually every note that Beethoven committed to paper. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 soundtrack gives enough ambience to put you in the hall. The absence of the subwoofer track is not really noticed in this particular musical genre.
Besides the usual C Major trailers, there is a substantial interview with artist Buchbinder regarding the Beethoven concerto cycle. It is informative and worth watching in its entirety. .
The Definitive Word
Entering the world of the Beethoven piano concertos is like starting up an Olympic event, say the Decathlon. There is a universe of music contained with these five pieces that is like no other. This repertory calls upon the resources of a pianist who must move from the neatly contained classical world of Mozart to the unruly sturm und drang that is Beethoven. There is a short list of contemporary artists that can make this transition effectively and, believe me, Rudolf Buchbinder is definitely on that list. The main competition comes from Daniel Barenboim’s cycle with the Staatskapelle Dresden, also with the soloist at the helm. This is one case where different styles dictate personal preferences. Barenboim’s approach is more dramatic and extroverted, while Buchbinder takes a more introspective tack. Listening to the final concerto, the so-called “Emperor,” is a good example of contrasts — Barenboim going for the ultra-romantic throat, Buchbinder recalling echoes of Mozart. Really, Dodge City is big enough for both versions. As for me, I will definitely put the Buchbinder Beethoven cycle on the keeper list.
Additional Screen Captures