The 5 Browns – “No Boundaries” GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; COPLAND/DVORAK: Simple Gifts/Goin’ Home; STRAVINSKY: The Firebird; Works by LECOUNA, NOVACEK, RAVEL, LIEBERMANN, LISZT, LUTOSLAWSKI, GINASTERA & RACHMANINOFF – RCA Red Seal

by | Apr 12, 2006 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

The 5 Browns – “No Boundaries”  GERSHWIN: Rhapsody in Blue; COPLAND/DVORAK: Simple Gifts/Goin’ Home; STRAVINSKY: The Firebird; Works by LECOUNA, NOVACEK, RAVEL, LIEBERMANN, LISZT, LUTOSLAWSKI, GINASTERA & RACHMANINOFF – RCA Red Seal DualDisc 82876-73339-2, 61:32 (DVD side is DD 5.1 audio + 3 bonus videos), ****:

I reviewed the CD-only release Here –
not realizing that like the 5 Browns’ initial album,
this one would later be out on Dual Disc.  Like the first, the entire audio program is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround on the DVD side, along with the bonus videos.  I frankly would have preferred MLP 5.1 or at least DTS 5.1 but the Dolby option is quite good, and vital to separating out the five grand pianos on the three selections where all 5 Browns are doing their thing.  The CD side has slightly cleaner sonics but it bunches up together the sounds of the five Steinways in a most confusing manner.  And it refused to play on my so-called universal Integra player, though my Sony SACD changer handled it OK. (A common problem with DualDiscs and why they are not allowed to use the standard Compact Disc emblem.)

The program is certainly varied, mixing classical standards with unusual selections, including even a work as new as Liebermann’s Gargoyles.  The three selections for the full 5 pianos are the ones in the three bonus videos: the Gershwin, Copland/Dvorak and Stravinsky. The first and last are both Reader’s Digest versions with some rather abrupt transitions for those familiar with the complete scores. In spite of that, they’re spectacular. The setting appears to be the salt flats near Salt Lake City. The Stravinsky is shot as dusk approaches to give it a different appearance from the Gershwin. [I was concerned about the salt and the five Steinways, thinking of the party guest who once spilled red wine onto the bass strings of my baby grand. The sugar in it crystallized and caused resonances; I had to eventually replace the strings. Would suspect salt does the same.] I was also thinking of the fun the young Browns must have had shooting their “finger-syncing” to the prerecorded selections out there on the salt flats.

Among the other one, two and three-piano tracks, Gregory Brown plays the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 with greatest gusto, and Ryan captures the special Latin rhythms of the three-movement Argentine Dances by Ginastera.  A movement from Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole is beautifully played by Desirae and Deondra Brown. The titles for the selections on the 5.1 audio-only program are displayed on the screen over photos which appear to have been shot in the empty utility building which was the setting for the middle of the videos.

– John Sunier

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