Martha Argerich & Daniel Barenboim, pianists, in MOZART, SCHUBERT & STRAVINSKY, Blu-ray (2015)

Martha Argerich & Daniel Barenboim, pianists, in MOZART, SCHUBERT & STRAVINSKY, Blu-ray (2015)

Performers: Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim
Program: MOZART: Sonata for Two Pianos in D; SCHUBERT: Variations on an Original Theme in A flat Major; STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du printempts (for piano four hands)
Director: Christopher Swann
Studio: EuroArts /Unitel Classica 2059994 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080i HD color
Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48Hz/24-bit) or PCM 2.0
All regions
Length: 83 min.
Rating: *****

Argerich&BarenboimCDThis is a live recording from the Berlin Philharmonie in April of 2014. It is also available on a DGG stereo CD (479 3922), but who would want that without the striking images of these two world’s best pianists in their element, plus the clean and exciting 5.1 surround sound provided by the Blu-ray? The video is about eight minutes longer than the CD, due to the camera showing all the bowing, applause, and shots of the Berliners in the audience.

Both of these legendary superstars got their start as child prodigies in their native Buenos Aires and then went on to take the world by storm. They have both received top ratings for their piano performances with symphony orchestras worldwide as well as solo piano performances and recordings. Now they have teamed up for this terrific two-piano recital. Both have in common a particular interest in chamber music; Argerich doesn’t even perform solo recitals anymore – only in concert with other performers.

Both the Mozart and Schubert works have always been somewhat forgettable ones with me, but seeing the two in performance puts the works in an entirely different light. The Schubert work is performed at one Steinway keyboard by the duo – four hands. Interesting how Barenboim looks frequently over at Argerich during the Mozart, while she stays front-facing; yet during the Schubert she looks occasionally at Barenboim, who doesn’t return her glances. The interplay of the four hands at the keyboard is enthalling.

The Rite of Spring is listed as being the same – for piano four hands, but the Argerich-Barenboim duo perform it on two pianos, which seems much more reasonable considering how often both keyboards are working on a similar portion of the 88 keys in front of them. This is an amazingly exciting version – and perhaps has become my personal favorite – even over the videos of the actual Stravinsky ballet. The percussive and rhythmic elements of the score are exposed in strong detail, in ways that are often missed when watching the ballet. What with the glorious surround sound, the experience is one not to be missed.

Is it worth the unusually expensive cost of $60 on Amazon? I don’t know why it’s so much more than most of the other music Blu-rays, but I do think so. This is well worth seeing and experiencing.

—John Sunier

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