Chopin: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 [Warsaw Philharmonic/Ohlsson] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: MPEG-2
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo; DTS-HD MasterAudio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, German, French, Polish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Ideale Audience
- 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 anticipation of Frederic Chopin’s bicentenary (2010), a raft of Chopin recordings and videos began to appear. Fortunately for Chopin lovers, this 2009 performance blu-ray disc features an internationally celebrated expert in this repertoire, pianist Garrick Ohlsson, and the idiomatic Warsaw Philharmonic led by its outstanding maestro, Antoni Wit. While the program centers around the two Chopin piano concertos, it begins with a well conducted, seldom heard tone-poem by fellow 19th century Polish composer, Stanislaw Moniuszko, Bajka or The Fairy’s Tale. Ohlsson’s reading of the piano concertos could be considered as definitive for our time as every nuance of these two masterworks is extracted by a soloist who has lived with them most of his life. Wit’s tempi are nigh unto perfect allowing the orchestra and soloist to sing but without the languor to which, in lesser hands, Chopin’s music is quite susceptible. The recital concludes with a boldly stroked Mazurka in C sharp minor. As enjoyable as these performances are, and as excellent as the sound recording is, there are some reservations about the video quality of the picture.
While closeups, and there are quite a few of pianist Ohlsson in a state of apparent Chopin-induced bliss, motion artifacts intrude intermittently during the proceedings. Since these are not present in all of the action shots, this may be the fault of one of the cameras. Nonetheless, it should have been better addressed in editing. There is also more graininess than I am accustomed to seeing in a high definition video. Colors are good and realistic.
This Blu-ray makes a strong argument for the value of DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. The PCM 2-channel version sounds almost dead in comparison. The soloist is well balanced against the orchestral forces. There is also considerable warmth to the acoustic suggestive of the intimacy of the modest sized venue in this recording. The sound and dynamics of Ohlsson’s Steinway is beautifully captured by the audio engineers.
For once, thanks to you Ideale Audience, a terrific short subject documentary is included, Gerald Caillat’s “The Art of Chopin.” It opens with Garrick Ohlsson’s prize-winning performance at the 1970 International Chopin Competition and, through some terrific performances by other piano virtuosi, tracks the life and works of Chopin.
The Definitive Word
There is no shortage of Blu-ray recordings of the Chopin piano concerto literature, including ones by Daniel Barenboim, Evgeny Kissin, and Nikolai Demidenko. Those artists may be more extroverted than Garrick Ohlsson but it is the latter who delivers the essence of this heart-felt music, speaking, as it were, in the composer’s own voice. His technique allows every note to be clearly heard and respects the tempi and dynamics that Chopin intended. Conductor Wit plays no small part in the success of these performances, giving his soloist sympathetic support from his Polish forces. Listening to these piano concertos back-to-back (they were written within a year of each other) shows how adept the very young nineteen year old composer was in writing for this genre. In these performances, the freshness of Chopin’s genius comes across perfectly in the Ohlsson-Wit collaboration. Not to take things out of order, but if you started with track 7 (the second movement of Concerto No. 2), the entrancing quality of Ohlsson’s pianism will take over your senses and soul. In spite of my reservations about some of the video quality of this Blu-ray, the musical values are so strong that I will return frequently to this disc to get my essential Chopin fix.
Additional Screen Captures