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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Italian Concerto, BWV 971
Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo, BWV 992
French Suite No. 5 in G major, BWV 816
Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903
András Schiff (piano)
Director: Bruno Monsaingeon
rec. 1989, no location given.
Picture format NTSC, 4:3; Sound format PCM stereo; Region Code 0 (Worldwide).
EUROARTS 2066768 [54:00]

As part of Euroarts' Recorded Excellence series of DVDs and Blu-Rays, the company has been releasing some old films that have been re-mastered. In some cases, these films are deteriorated and the re-mastering makes them more or less watchable. This is the case with a number featuring Daniel Barenboim playing Mozart and Beethoven, for example, and with some videos of András Schiff in Bach and Schubert.
 
However, this current DVD shows many signs of age that make it a bit annoying to watch. It's not grainy as some of the film transfers have been, but there are moments when the film is so dark it's hard to make out much of what's going on. At other times, the video is fuzzy and over-saturated.
 
I very much admire Schiff, and he's one of my favorite performers of Bach's music on piano - and Schubert's too. While the playing here is excellent, watching the video can be a shade frustrating. This said, it's directed by Bruno Monsaingeon, who does have an excellent technique when it comes to filming musicians. He is the director of the excellent film of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations, along with several other films of Gould.
 
Don't get me wrong; the playing here is excellent, and the sound quite good, it's just that visually it's disappointing. The bad bits aren't that frequent, but they come in and out. Just remember: it's not your TV.
 
I especially like Schiff's French Suite No. 5 in this program. In 2011, I was very taken by his live recording of the French Suites on Blu-Ray. Listening to the version on this DVD, recorded in 1989, it's clear that his approach hasn't changed that much, and was as idiosyncratic then as it is now.
 
This is a fine recital of some of Bach's keyboard music, with wonderful interpretations, but marred by poor and aged video. As long as you're aware of the visual issues, you may still enjoy listening to the music.  

Kirk McElhearn

Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just music on his blog Kirkville.
 

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