SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
MOZART-GRIEG: Works for Two Pianos, Vol. II – MOZART: Sonata in D Major for two claviers KV448; Fantasie in C minor KV 475; GRIEG: Old Norwegian Romance with Variations for two pianos Op. 51 – Dena Piano Duo – 2L Blu-ray + SACD
Published on April 2, 2009
MOZART-GRIEG: Works for Two Pianos, Vol. II – MOZART: Sonata in D Major for two claviers KV448; Fantasie in C minor KV 475 (arr. for 2 pianos by Grieg); GRIEG: Old Norwegian Romance with Variations for two pianos Op. 51 – Dena Piano Duo (Tina Margareta Nilssen & Heide Görtz) – 2L double-disc box 2L57SABD, 1 hour [Music-only DTS-HD 192K/24bit Blu-ray + multichannel SACD] *****:
Here is the third music-only Blu-ray from the perfectionist Norwegian label 2L, who appears to be single-handedly forging ahead with the music-only idea in spite of being the only label doing so, plus the added cost of providing a separate multichannel SACD in each package.
The program and instrumentation is a delightful choice. I immediately got out my favorite recording of the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos, featuring Alicia de Larrocha and Andre Previn on RCA Red Seal. It sounded gorgeous on either Source Direct via my Benchmark DAC1 or using ProLogic IIx decoding for surround. Then I put on the 2L Blu-ray of the same. It was like the sun had come out! Much more clarity, depth, natural piano timbres, and a feeling of actually being in the hall with the two pianists. And a totally silent noise floor. Switching to the SACD disc version I could tell no serious difference between the two advanced surround formats. (Perhaps if I had speakers in the five-figure category and still had the extended high frequency hearing of a 20-year-old I might not be saying that, but what the heck.) I don’t feel there is any real sonic advantage to 192K/24 reproduction vs. 96K/24 at the user end – though higher sampling rates can provide advantages in the original recording.
Mozart clearly had an audiophile mentality when he created music for any instrument, and he seems to have been fascinated by the special sounds of a pair of identical pianos. The new possibilities this pairing offered to him were manifold. He could employ both pianos together for a strong almost orchestral sound, have one handle the main melody with the other doing subtle accompanying figures, even playing around with unison doubling – something impossible on a single piano. Nilssen and Görtz are very precise in their playing and phrase beautifully in the sonata.
I played the Mozart Fantasie in college; it’s probably the most forward-looking and experimental keyboard work by the composer. Grieg does a most interesting job in expanding the many subtleties of the work to two keyboards. Mozart’s highly refined sensitivity comes thru strongly here, with the strictures of having to write in sonata of other traditional forms. There are four contrasting tempi during the piece, plus a return at the conclusion to the Tempo primo, and they aid in delineating the sections and setting apart the introduction of new material in each section. This is surely one of the composer’s masterpieces and a whole new view of it is provided by Grieg’s transcription for two pianos. The closing 24-minute theme and variations by Grieg must have failed to catch my ear in the complete set of all of Grieg’s piano music on Naxos, because in this setting on Blu-ray/SACD I find it a most listenable work – full of the composer’s wonderful facility with catchy melodies and without the salon-piece kitsch of some of his piano music. 2L’s Morton Lindberg says that there won’t be a SACD-only version of this double-album because sales of the Blu-ray sets are running way ahead of their SACD sales. So better pick up on this glorious two-piano outing in its present form even if you only have SACD playback and not Blu-ray.
– John Sunier