Oscar Peterson

A Night in Vienna [DVD]

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Oscar Peterson has continued to fill concert halls -- for good reason -- following his return after a serious stroke in 1993. This 2003 concert, videotaped at the Musikverein in Vienna, shows a packed house enthusiastically applauding the veteran pianist and his quartet, which includes old friends Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass, drummer Martin Drew, and the relative youngster of the group, guitarist Ulf Wakenius. In spite of the damage the stroke did to Peterson's once powerful left hand, which is most evident in the close-up shots of the keyboard, he has hardly lost his ability to swing hard; he simply relies more heavily on his right hand and the strong support of his group. The 11 songs from this concert are dominated by Peterson's originals, including old favorites like his gospel-inflected "Hymn to Freedom" and "Wheatland" (from his Canadiana Suite) and new works like the tender ballad "When Summer Comes." Add the dash through "Sweet Georgia Brown" (with the hot licks of Wakenius) and a standard like "Falling in Love With Love," and it is easy to understand why the proud pianist earned a standing ovation. Bonus selections on this DVD include a well-crafted nearly hourlong documentary of Peterson's life. Christopher Plummer was an inspired choice as narrator; not only was he a fellow Canadian and star of the film The Silent Partner (for which Peterson composed and recorded the soundtrack), but he also attended the same high school simultaneously with the pianist. There's also a brief film about the making of Bösendorfer pianos, long Peterson's instrument of choice, along with a complete discography of his recordings for Verve over the years. The production of this DVD is first class in every way, as are the quartet's performances.

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