Brahms, Schubert: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 9 (Great)

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schubert
LABELS: CO.PAR
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms, Schubert
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Symphony No. 9 (Great)
PERFORMER: Andrea Lucchesini (piano); Italian Youth Orchestra/Gianluigi Gelmetti (Teatro dei Rinnovati, Siena, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: DVD076
These five sets contain some interesting features. Each comprises two discs, one purely an audio CD, the other a DVD (though on the Beethoven/ Brahms/Mendelssohn collection the Egmont Overture is on DVD only). Each takes the form of a concert at an Italian venue — usually a historic and beautiful one (images of Siena, Parma, Florence and Mantua are included on the relevant DVDs). Multi-angle options are available, allowing the viewer to watch either the conductor or the orchestra. On the Verdi CD, for the Force of Destiny Overture one can focus even more specifically on the strings, the woodwind or the horns.

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For the Beethoven Triple Concerto and the Brahms Double, you can programme one of the solo parts to appear at the foot of the screen, like subtitles. The score isn’t terribly clear, but it’s possible to make it out. Then there are backstage sequences, with interviews with some of the conductors and soloists taking part and – for the Verdi overtures collection -with Carlo Maria Giulini, Giulietta Simionato and Renato Bruson. The sound, with frequently more than one hi-tech system available at the press of a button, is excellent.

Whether one would wish to watch these concerts repeatedly is another matter. Though the soloists are all very acceptable, and in the case of Andrea Lucchesini something rather better than that, the orchestral playing is not in any sense exceptional. Its overall standard is adequate to good. The Italian Youth Orchestra frankly has a bit of a struggle with the Brahms D minor Piano Concerto, while Grieg’s faux-Baroque Holberg Suite comes over rather ponderously under Julian Kovachev. The Tuscan Regional Orchestra gives a very worthy account of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony under Donate Renzetti.

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This is certainly a series in which -thus far at least – the technical sophistication of the dressing-up has outstripped the artistic quality of the package itself. No booklets are included, so there are no notes on the music or performers, but there is so much else one can’t really complain.