Miklós Perényi • András Schiff

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms & Bartók,Chopin,Debussy,Janacek,JS Bach,Mendelssohn
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: works by JS Bach, Mendelssohn, Janácek, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Brahms & Bartó
PERFORMER: Miklós Perényi (cello), András Schiff (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-69343-2 (NTSC system; Dolby 5.1; 4:3 picture fomat)

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András Schiff and cellist Miklós Perényi both studied at Budapest’s Liszt Academy, schooling in the high seriousness and intellectual rigour of its tradition. But if Schiff has been absorbed into the international music scene, Perényi remains something of an outsider.

In these three concerts to mark his 60th birthday, he plays with the mesmerising stillness and control of his compatriot János Starker, without the icy precision: there’s spontaneity and warmth here, the occasional smile lights up his mournful clown face, though his bows to applause are almost comically shy.

Perényi inhabits the music at a profound level and is surely one of the masters of structure in the core repertoire (his Beethoven Sonatas with Schiff on ECM are models). The only performances that ‘date’ him here are the three Bach gamba sonatas: his heavy, on-the-string bowing stifles the joie de vivre he clearly feels in the music.

Highlights include a vivid, rapturous Bartók Rhapsody and a brilliant Podháka, Janacék’s deft miracle of duo composition. Mendelssohn’s and Brahms’s Sonata No. 1 are warmly flowing and sure, while their Chopin Sonata reaches its climax in a magnificently intense slow movement.

At moments like that, there is simply no aspect of execution coming between an extraordinary ensemble. It’s moving to see a packed hall of listeners, of all ages, following Perényi’s every note – as we are able to do: with the specialist in mind, the camera’s focus is tightly on his hands – edifying for some, less exciting for others.

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For extras there are delightful encores, but to make this collectible I would have liked some more documentary on or interviews with the artists, and on the illustrious Liszt Academy, of which we only get a gilded glimpse. Helen Wallace