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CD Review

Verbier Festival 2013

20th Anniversary Concert

  • Franz Schubert: Piano Trio #1 in B Flat Major, Op. 99, D. 898 (Second Movement) 1-3
  • Antonín Dvořák: Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, B. 155 (Second Movement) 4,27
  • Göran Fröst: Klezmer Dance #3 6,28
  • Robert Schumann: Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, Op. 44 (First Movement) 3,5,7-9
  • Monty Alexander: Happy Birthday Variations 10
  • Serge Prokofieff: Cinderella Suite #2, Op. 108 - Grand Waltz & Galop (arr. M. Pletnev for 2 pianos) 11,12
  • Frédéric Chopin: 24 Preludes, Op. 28 (arr. D. Sitkovetsky)
  • #1, in C Major 13
  • #2, in A minor 14,15
  • #3, in G Major 16,17
  • #4, in E minor 6,18
  • #5, in D Major 19
  • #6, in B minor 20,26
  • #7, in A Major 11
  • #8, in F Sharp minor 21,18
  • #9, in E Major 9,4
  • #10, in C Sharp minor 10
  • #11, in B Major 22,5
  • #12, in G Sharp minor 12
  • #13, in F-Sharp Major 4
  • #14, in E Flat minor 18
  • #15, in D Flat Major, "Raindrop" 23,27
  • #16, in B Flat minor 23
  • #17, in A Flat Major 7,12
  • #18, in F minor 15
  • #19, in E Flat Major 2,23
  • #20, in C minor 5
  • #21, in B Flat Major 24,11
  • #22, in G minor 17
  • #23, in F Major 3,13
  • #24, in D minor 1
1 Evgeny Kissin, piano
2 Renaud Capuçon, violin
3 Gautier Capuçon, cello
4 Menahem Pressler, piano
5 Emanuel Ax, piano
6 Martin Fröst, clarinet
7 Leonidas Kavakos, violin
8 Gábor Takács-Nagy, violin
9 Antoine Tamestit, viola
10 Monty Alexander, piano
11 Mikhail Pletnev, piano
12 Daniil Trifonov, piano
13 Yuja Wang, piano
14 Yuri Bashmet, viola
15 Nicholas Angelich, piano
16 Ilya Gringolts, violin
17 Lera Auerbach, piano
18 Julien Quentin, piano
19 Roman Rabinovich, piano
20 Mischa Maisky, cello
21 David Aaron Carpenter, violin
22 Vilde Frang, violin
23 Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
24 Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin
25 Leigh Mesh, Double Bass
26 Lily Maisky, piano
27 Quatuor Ébène
28 Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra
Recorded at the Salle des Combins, Verbier, Switzerland, July 28, 2013 Idéale Audience/ DVD 2060658 105min LPCM Stereo Fullscreen
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan Find it at JPC

Yes, there's a lot to digest in this hodgepodge concert: there are so many well-known pianists, string players and other instrumentalists involved in performances of the various works that this Verbier Festival concert could be called a gathering of many of the world's classical music superstars. Indeed, and the superstars were not just among the performers: Alfred Brendel served as Emanuel Ax's page-turner!

Anyway, as the reader can glean from the heading, the performances here are mostly of partial works. In the case of the Chopin Preludes, they appear complete, but half are adapted for piano and another instrument, although #15 is an adaptation for strings alone. The concert begins with a splendid performance of the second movement of the Schubert Op. 99 Piano Trio by Evgeny Kissin and the Capuçon brothers. But, oh, you wish the whole work were included. The same could be said of the Dvořák and Schumann Piano Quintets, as those renditions are also very convincing here. What a remarkable artist Menahem Pressler is: he was a few months from turning ninety years old when he gave this splendid performance in the Dvořák.

The Göran Fröst Klezmer Dance #3 is a catchy short piece and it gets a very spirited performance from Fröst and the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. Monty Alexander's Happy Birthday Variations is mainly a jazzy take on the popular birthday song, well played here by the composer. The two pieces from Prokofiev's Cinderella, as adapted by Pletnev for two pianos, are also excellently played. Galop is thoroughly exciting, about the most breathlessly paced performance in the concert.

The Chopin Preludes offer a broad spectrum of performers and interpretations, yielding quite a unique treatment of the work. Purists will probably not take well to most of Dmitri Sitkovetsky's adaptations, but open-minded listeners will find them imaginative, even if they don't always succeed. I don't find #2, for piano and viola, a convincing adaptation (ditto for #9), but the ensuing G Major works better for violin and piano. Surprisingly, the clarinet part in #3 is among the most effective adaptations – and Fröst and Quentin turn in fine performances too. Pletnev is perhaps a bit laid back in #7, but quite sensitive still. One of the Preludes, #10, is given a jazzy improvisation by Monty Alexander. It doesn't work for me at all, though lovers of both jazz and Chopin (not a large group, I'm sure) might like it. Trifonov is a little muddy in #11 but exciting nonetheless. #15, for string quartet and double bass, is very atmospheric and haunting. Khatia Buniatishvili gives a very virtuosic performance of #16, but is just a little too hurried. However, her performance of #19, with violinist Renaud Capuçon, is very good. Maybe the best Chopin performances of the night are by Emanuel Ax and Evgeny Kissin: in #20 Ax makes the music sound so ominous and stately and in #24 Kissin imparts a powerful sense of agitation and desperation.

The sound reproduction and camera work are both quite fine. So the verdict here is that if you like multi-performer concerts offering mixed fare, this Verbier anniversary DVD should offer considerable appeal.

Copyright © 2014, Robert Cummings