Beethoven • Rimsky-Korsakov • Chopin • Dvorák
Most of the audience at concerts only get to enjoy the conductor Andris Nelsons’s back. But with eight video cameras busy at work we’re spoiled for choice in this recording from last summer’s Lucerne Festival. Nelsons’s clenched chin; his dark, darting eyes; the boyish grin that suddenly turns demonic: we see them all. And none are distracting, for every gesture and expression dovetails with what we hear. Subtle yet soaring, these orchestral performances are shaped by a conductor who enjoys every second of his job, and equally enjoys the musicians before him – the superb Concertgebouw players, peerless in technical finesse and the elegant colouring of phrase and line.
Would that the same passion for music showed itself in Yefim Bronfman’s performance of the Emperor Concerto. Overly imperious, Bronfman plays Beethoven with the kind of clean dexterity that blankets any personal response. It takes his solo encore, the F major Etude from Chopin’s Op. 10, for his fingers to generate real heat and light.
And even if Bronfman slumbers, Nelsons never follows suit. In the Beethoven he’s fiery and dynamic, though it would take an even bolder magic than Nelsons’s to shake off the tedium eventually generated by Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherezade.The Concertgebouw delivers it with impeccable taste, which may be part of the problem. For crispness of sound and vision, the Blu-ray edition is much to be preferred to the DVD.