Güher & Süher Pekinel, pianos – Live in Concert (2009)

by | Dec 28, 2009 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Güher & Süher Pekinel, pianos – Live in Concert (2009)

With English Chamber Orch./Sir Colin Davis; Zurich Chamber Orch./Muhai Tang; Jacques Loussier Trio
TrackList: MOZART: Concerto No. 10 in E flat Major for Two Pianos; POULENC: Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos; MILHAUD: Brazileira, from Scaramouche; BRAHMS: Sonata in F minor for Two Pianos; LUTOSLAWSKI: Paganini Variations
Studio: ArtHaus Musik 101 349 [Distrib. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: PCM Stereo
No Region Code
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Turkish
Extras: Interview with the Pekinels; Excerpt from filmic portrait by Hanno Rinke; Excerpts from RACHMANINOFF: Suite No. 5, BACH: Triple Concerto (with Jacques Loussier), VIVALDI: Spring, Bach & Jazz; music video
Length: Concerts – 88 mins.; Interview & extras – 42 mins.
Rating: ****1/2

This is the first commercial DVD from the exceptional Turkish piano twins, who have set new standards for duo piano playing, made many fine recordings, and are vying with the Lebeque Sisters as the world’s top female two-piano duo. They have selected some of the best videos from their various concerts and put them together in this DVD with a short interview (in German, with subtitles) plus an excerpt from a documentary on themselves (which also includes excerpts from a few of the same performance videos).

Critics have acclaimed the amazing homogenous playing style of the Pekinel sisters, and even tout that their lively personalities and polished playing has given duo-piano recitals an improved status, similar to what it once enjoyed years ago. One element of most of their performances struck me right away, both on-screen and via the loudspeakers: Instead of nesting the two concert grands so that the two performers can see one another – as done by nearly all other piano duos – they have each grand piano set up in a row, with the raised lids facing the audience and neither able to see the other’s face. Each sister’s full concentration is on the other, but using their ears instead of their eyes. They claim when the lids are removed from the two nested grands – as commonly done – the second piano (further from the edge of the stage) loses 65% of its sound quality because the sound goes straight up and not towards the audience. In addition to the improved separation in the concert hall, the recording benefits from much better spatial separation of the two pianos – something I’ve been pulling for for years.

The opening Mozart two-piano concerto is an absolute delight. The sisters played it at their debut in Turkey when they were only nine years old, and one couldn’t ask for a better backing orchestra than the London musicians and Sir Colin Davis.  Also, the sonics on this video are a cut about the rest of the DVD, with better video gear and famed recording engineer Tony Faulkner responsible for the soundtrack.

The rest of the main program was videotaped at two concerts in Switzerland and is not as high resolution as on the Mozart concerto, but remains very enjoyable viewing.  I’m very attracted to two-piano programs of any sort, and one cannot avoid being attracted to these two ravishing, somewhat exotic personalities. They may have even more pizazz than the Lebeques! The only slight detraction to get past is that the sisters tend to move their mouths most of the time while playing, which becomes obvious in the closeups. (At least they do it silently, unlike some other pianists I won’t name…) All the other selections following the Mozart are masterful performances. Hearing the one movement of the Milhaud, I was wishing they had done the entire Scaramouche Suite. While most listeners would probably prefer the Piano Quintet version of the Brahms, the sisters do the two-piano version in impeccable style. The excerpt of the Bach Triple Concerto, jazzed up with the Jacques Loussier Trio, is a kick – also wanted to hear more of that. It shows the Pekinels are into the crossover area, as are many other piano duos. But the short music video tries too hard to fit the usual pop video style and is a bit embarrassing with its fire and belly dancers, and although the short bit of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is nice, one wonders why it was included since it features only the Loussier Trio without the Pekinels. The included booklet has two essays on the Pekinels, although one is just a printed version of the interview on the DVD.

– John Sunier

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