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paul lewis

franz schubert

6 Moments musicaux D.780
Piano Sonata in G major "Fantasy" Op. 78 D.894

Naive Classique DR 2102 AV 103 [69 mins]





zoltan kocsis

ludwig van beethoven
Piano Sonata in E minor No. 27, Op. 90

franz schubert
Piano Sonata in E minor No.7, 0.566

bela bartok
Piano Sonata, Sz. 80
For children (excerpts)

gyorgy kurtag
Jatekok - excerpts

franz liszt
Hungarian Rhapsody in E minor, 5.244 No.5
les Jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este, 5.163 No.4
Sunt lacrymae rerum, 5.163 No.5 (Annees de pelerinage)
Csardas Macabre, 5.224

Naive Classique DR 2100 AV 103 [92 mins]

These two piano recital DVDs from Naive Classique are amongst a first batch of recitals filmed at the special state-of-the-art studio/recital hall built at La Roque d'Antheron, a small village in Provence, as an adjunct to the prestigious annual summer piano festival, mostly given before large audiences in an open air auditorium. It is an ambitious project, and the attractive auditorium in the round seats 150 for the selected filmed recitals, eight in 2002 (others include Berezovsky, Lugansky & Guy with some lesser known names; UK Distributor, Select).

Two contrasted pianists have been chosen by Musical Pointers for this first sampling, the leading Hungarian Zoltan Kocsis (b. 1952) directed for film by his compatriot Janos Darvas, and the young British Schubert specialist Paul Lewis (ex-Chethams & the Guildhall and protege of Brendel - they are coy about his age) by Chloe Perlemuter (I wonder if she is related to the great French pianist?).

They sound very different, although the sound engineer for both is the same. I saw the Kocsis first and found it impressive; he has steely fingers, a masterful approach with hands held high; he makes a fine percussive sound in Bartok's sonata and is devastatingly relentless in Liszt's Csardas Macabre, a welcome rarity. The Beethoven is sensitively modelled, but I was sorry that he was playing a Steinway, and his approach generally seemed to be for a larger audience and auditorium.

This however suited the rest of the programme and the close miking came into its own for the subtle Kurtag Games, letting us hear all the vibrating overtones. We got tantalising, all too brief, glimpses of the manuscript score (they were dedicated to Kocsis). A dozen of Bartok's Childrens Pieces was an odd choice; they really are pieces to be played by children, and are not nearly as interesting as even the earlier books of Mikrokosmos. The camera was restless, with too frequent cutting between views, those of the pianist's face and head redundant after a couple of times.

One increasingly came to feel that this recital was a super-efficient performance by Kocsis of music he had played so many times that there was little left to feel or express during the performance itself, but that may be related to his undemonstrative manner?

Paul Lewis is far more inward; relaxed and sensitive to every nuance and harmonic shift in music he clearly loves. The tone is warmer (different microphone set-up, possibly?) and this was an experience which drew us in to be with the audience.

A far shorter recital, but it felt like recreation of the music whilst we watched, Schubert to savour and return to, discovering rare delights in the Momens musicaux and the delectable, lyrical so-called Fantasy Sonata.

The camera angles provided useful views for pianists to study techniques and fingerings etc - Kocsis holds his hands higher than does Lewis. Picture and sound quality are sharp and clear in both DVDs - exemplary. The booklets tell you about the festival, the filming project ("a unique experiment") and the pianists but say too little about the music. This is particularly regrettable for Kocsis, whose programme is of music for connoisseurs, his selections well outside the mainstream 'canon'. Lewis is celebrated as a registered Steinway pianist; I hope that won't preclude his trying other makes such as Bosendorfer and Bluthner, not to speak of earlier fortepianos, which have so much to offer in his chosen repertoire.

To summarise, both DVDs are worth acquiring; I shall return to listen to Kocsis again, partly with the picture off (but I'll enjoy watching again Kurtag's fun and pianistic antics, especially the piece which is entirely glissandi) and will watch and listen to Lewis, where there is no conflict. His manner as seen here never detracts from the music and leaves an unforgettable impression; I shall hasten to hear him play live in London (he has been greatly praised for Wigmore Hall appearances) and to follow his development with greatest interest. My contrasting reactions are entirely subjective and possibly idiosyncratic and not too much should be made of them. It would also be interesting to see what the five other directors who shared the filming of the other pianists made of their opportunities.


© Peter Grahame Woolf