Chamber Music Palisades in program of SHOSTAKOVICH: Piano Quintet Op. 57; DEBUSSY: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp;  & BROCKMAN: Feast of Fives – 2 discs: Disc 1, Side 1: Complete 16:9 video of entire performance with DTS 5.1 & many bonus features; Disc 1, Side 2: Full audio-only program in DVD-Audio “stage mix;” Disc 2: Session audio as standard 44.1 CD – AIX Records  80052 ****:

This chamber music recording celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shostakovichs with the major work here, the lively Piano Quintet. The seven performers all come from either the LA Philharmonic and chamber orchestras and/or are musicians with the major movie studios.  The disc provides the usual feature overkill of AIX, with a dizzying variety of choices among the audio programs plus a full-length widescreen video of the performers playing the entire program of three works. There are also on-screen liner notes, bios of the composers and performers, a photo gallery, and DVD-ROM information.  The composers’ bios are well-displayed, as are all the instructions on audio options and other features. While the DTS “Stage Mix” is excellent when viewing the widescreen video of the concert, the DVD-Audio MLP surround mix is even better, with astounding clarity and presence.  The extreme treble notes of the Steinway piano sounds brittle and metallic, but that’s just how American Steinways sound, so Aix’s superb recording quality shouldn’t be blamed.  The video side of AIX recordings has become more sophisticated with each release, and this one even has cutting between views from above  the performers as well as many closeups. The only rather odd visual note is seeing the actual tracks for the tracking shots – it looks like the musicians are playing for some sort of garden railway event.

The Debussy Trio is one of my favorite chamber works and it was thrilling to see it performed live.  The tempi in the Shostakovich Quintet run a bit slower than most of the competing  versions on CD, but I found the video concert most enjoyable nevertheless.  The Brockman contemporary work is accessible enough that it provides an interesting conclusion to the program.  The photography and editing are quite different from the typical major label music video, giving a more immediate and realistic feeling to the concert.  No other label is providing the highest level of audio reproduction plus video that AIX has been providing in its unique series of albums.

 – John Sunier