- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: MPEG-2
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo
- Subtitles: English, German, French, Polish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 255 Mins.
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: EuroArts
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 29, 2012
- List Price: $39.99
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Pianist/conductor Daniel Barenboim has been performing in public for most of his seventy years. During his long and distinguished career, Barenboim has performed with the who’s who of world orchestras, including the Berliner Philharmoniker, his colleagues for these concerts. For viewers not acquainted with performance traditions, the piano soloist as orchestra leader was, in fact, how these Mozart piano concertos were introduced to European audiences attending their premieres. Barenboim has had a long association with the Mozart piano catalog, having recorded all of the concertos in the 1970’s with the English Chamber Orchestra. The present performances were filmed at the Siemens-Villa, Berllin between 1986 and 1989 and were directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (No. 21), Klass Rusticus (Nos. 24, 27) and George Moorse (the remaining five). In spite of a four-year difference among these recordings, there is remarkable consistency in sight and sound. Regarding the actual performances, I do not think that these Mozart masterpieces, written during a frenetic six-year span, have received better renditions for the video medium.
While filmed rather than videoed, the quality of the print is decent with a modest amount of grain and softness around the edges. The color palette is pretty monochromatic but probably true to the venue and the formally attired nearly all-male performers (I did spot one woman in the string section). In spite of Barenboim’s rather animated conducting style, there is relatively little motion artifact. I found the well lighted and classically appointed salon to be wonderfully consistent with the original period of these compositions. For those accustomed to today’s directorial styles with soloists put under a video microscope, you will get few of these surrealistic close ups (which I, for one, did not miss).
There is a choice between 2.0 PCM, and, oh well, 2.0 PCM. Having gotten a bit spoiled by the ubiquitous DTS-HD Master Audio surround soundtracks of the new Blu-rays, I was somewhat let down by not having that option here. However, these are films that are old enough to vote, and for their era, are decently recorded with good balance between piano and orchestra.
Normally, I would feel bereft that an undertaking this large should lack a single interview or footnote. We get EuroArt trailers only. However, on a single BD, we are served up four and one quarter hours of sublime music. All things considered, I’d rather have the music.
The Definitive Word
Experiencing these works so expertly performed overcomes any reservations about the technical shortcomings of the films. Simply put, you get eight masterpieces of the piano repertoire that will not likely have better versions any time soon. I am delighted that EuroArts remastered the films of a musical legend who, at the height of his powers, gives us wonderfully played Mozart. Regarding the individual concertos, all featuring the fast-slow-fast three-movement structure of the era, picking a favorite is like admitting to having a favorite child. However, off the record, go to Piano Concerto No. 25, and be amazed, very amazed! Even some of the lesser known works, like Nos. 22 and 23, are given their just due by maestro Barenboim and his Berliners. While some viewers might want take these films individually, I just OD’d for four hours plus and never noticed the passage of time. Knowing how the classical BD world works, there is no telling what the shelf life of this release will be. My advice: get this magnificent Mozart BD while it’s hot!
Additional Screen Captures