Brahms Piano Concertos Nos. 1 - 2

 

Brahms Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2015 at Severance Hall, Cleveland. Yefim Bronfman is the Piano soloist. The disc also includes Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Tragic Overture. This disc is available as part of a box set with Brahms' most famous symphonic works. Audio Producer was Christoph Claßen; TV Director was William Cosel; Producer was Herbert G. Kloiber. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade for both piano concertos: B+ (The Variations and Tragic Overture are not graded.)

The two piano concertos included in this title are nearly the same length and have the same video director; after viewing both a few times, we've determined that reviewing just Piano Concert No. 1 in depth will give the reader enough information about the overall quality of both concerto recordings.

Lets start with a whole-orchestra shot. The lighting is warm and the resolution is fine. It's nice to see the layout of the orchestra and the architecture of Severance Hall:

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Severence Hall is equiped with a remarkable crane that's mounted close to the left-front of the stage.  This allows for sweeping aerial shots:

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There are several nice shots of parts of sections throughout the recording. Here we see some violins:

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Below is a nice group shot of some woodwinds:

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One of the oddest quirks of this concerto recording are 22 directly-overhead shots of the piano or the piano and orchestra (probably made also from the crane). We would welcome showing the angle next below once or twice --- the viewer can see how the large Severance Hall stage allows the orchestra to spread out. But these overhead angles may be what critic Richard Osborne called "inconsistent and eccentric video direction" (January 2016 Gramophone at page 29). When they show up repeatedly, we must brand these overhead angles as low-value gimmicks:

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And next below is an overhead shot of Bronfman, which which we also count as unrealistic (meaning that it's not a shot that an audience member could see) and low-value:

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Below we have a shot of both conductor Franz Welser-Möst and Yefim Bronfman. The shot isn't realistic, but it is worthwhile because if it shows how Welser-Möst and Bronfman interact:

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Finally we see a great realistic shot of Bronfman from about the 7:30 position (as in 7:30 on a clock). This is one of our favorite angles for a pianist as it shows well the piano, keyboard, and the player:

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Another realistic shot from the 6:00 position which shows the pianist and part of the orchestra:

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Below we have a close-up of hands; we count this shot as unrealistic. And the optical illusion of the wedge-shaped keyboard is especially jarring:

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Perhaps the most unrealistic shot of a soloist is the shot below from stage-right through the piano:

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We did a Wonk Worksheet on Piano Concerto No. 1.

In 46 minutes and 30 seconds of music there are 242 total clips. This results in a pace of 11.5 clips per second.

Here's the clip breakdown:

  • Conductor shots = 25
  • Conductor-over-backs shots = 7
  • Soloist not realistic =45
  • *Soloist realistic = 40
  • Solo and other small-scale clips = 60
  • *Large-scale clips = 17
  • *Part-orchestra clips = 10
  • *Whole-orchestra clips = 13
  • Instrument-only clips = 3

Other low-value shots = 22 (these are the directly-overhead shots)

There are 80 "supershots" (add up the * numbers above of 40+17+10+13). So the supershots are 33% of the total clips (80/242). Conductor shots total 32 (25+7), and conductor gets only 13% of the clips (32/242). There are 95 shots of the soloist (45+40). Realistic shots of the soloist make up 47% of all soloist shots (40/95).

HDVDarts.com has established the following rules-of-thumb to identify a Blu-ray with DVDitis:

A good symphony HDVD should have a slow pace with more than 10 seconds per video clip on average. 20 to 40% of the clips should be large-scale "supershots." Conductor shots should be less (way less really) than 20% of the clips in the video.

Subject title passes all tests except for the soloist test, but 47% is close. So this title is not afflicted with serious DVDitis---let's call it a case of "pre-DVDitis."

Now for a grade. We start with A+ and reduce the grade to A for lack of 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling. Sound quality is good, with balanced mixing and clear audio. Picture quality is also nice. We reduce the grade some for not passing the soloist test and for the overabundance of directly-overhead shots. This takes us to a B+, and we also give a B+ to the Piano Concerto No. 2 recording.