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Very interesting is the bonus Behind the Scenes segment, where we see Lang Lang kidding around with James Levine, the pianists discussing the difficulties involved in performing with eight grand pianos at the same time, and Claude Frank letting us sit in on one of his master classes.

Frank explains in the bonus segment: 'We do here what we call masterclasses. A handful of people, seven or eight, each gets about three lessons. I don't really differentiate between a masterclass and a private lesson, except in a masterclass the emphasis is even more on the music. In a masterclass I don't say: "you drink too much" or "you don't sleep enough". In a master class, it's "crescendo here" to put it very bluntly. They get their lessons and they get all the offerings of the festival as well: not only piano but chamber music, orchestra etc.'

Levine offers his insights in the exceptional eight piano performances. 'With these pieces we're really having fun', he says. 'When do you get eight pianos together in one place with eight pianists? Eight monsters going at once is really a lot of fun. The coordination, actually, is the thing because you have multi-piano attacks that have to be together. In some configurations you can't see everybody clearly because some are sitting far away. But you work out ways to do it, sometimes with physical cues, sometimes with players sitting next to each other.'

It was good that BMG chose to bring this out on DVD because Verbier 2003 is one of those festivals where many still kick themselves for not having been there -- the DVD, at least, provides a small comfort and allows a post-event participation, albeit from a distance.

Copyright © 1 September 2004 Tess Crebbin, Germany


The Verbier Festival & Academy 10th Anniversary Piano Extravaganza

82876 60942 9 DVD-9 / PAL 16:9 Region code ALL (DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo sound options, concert only) NEW RELEASE 118' 2004 Verbier Festival & Academy - Bel Air Media - ARTE France - Thirteen/WNET New York - NHK

Martha Argerich, piano; Evgeny Kissin, piano; Leif Ove Andsnes, piano; Emanuel Ax, piano; James Levine, piano; Birthday Festival Orchestra; Mikhail Pletnev, piano; Nicolas Angelich, piano; Lang Lang, piano; Staffan Scheja, piano; Claude Frank, piano; Barbara Hendricks, soprano; Andy Sommer, director; Mark Shapiro, photography

Special feature: 'Making of' Documentary, including interviews with the artists; Concert: Opening credits; W A Mozart (1756-1791): Sonata for two pianos in C K521; Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884): Sonata in one movement for two pianos and 8 hands in E minor; Peter Heidrich (born 1935): Happy Birthday Variations (excerpts); J S Bach (1685-1750): Concerto for four pianos and orchestra in A minor BWV 1065; Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Semiramide Overture (arr Rico Gulda for eight pianos/sixteen hands, based on the Carl Czerny arrangement); Richard Wagner (1813-1883): Ride of the Valkyries (arr Richard Blackford for eight pianos); Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960): Jamaican Rumba (arr Patrick Russ for eight pianos); Morton Gould (1913-1996): Stars and Stripes Forever Suite (arr Michael Rot for eight pianos); Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869): L'Union: paraphrase de concert sur les airs nationaux (arr Patrick Russ for eight pianos, based on Samuel Adler's arrangement); Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908): Flight of the Bumblebee (arr First Piano Quartet for eight pianos); Happy Birthday; Closing credits





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