Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli / Jan Krenz

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5, "Emperor" [DVD Video]

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This 1967 video of Beethoven's "Emperor" Piano Concerto is the only video recording of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli performing a concerto. Perhaps even more significantly for fans of the notoriously note-perfect pianist, it is also one of the exceedingly rare live recordings of him in which he actually makes a mistake at the keyboard (a fudged octave in the opening Allegro's first theme.) While there are videos of several solo recitals and a master class, this is only video of him with an orchestra. Naturally, it is not Michelangeli's only "Emperor" Concerto; there are also half a dozen pirated recordings plus a magnificent digital recording for Deutsche Grammophon with Carlo Maria Giulini leading the Vienna Symphony. But it is still, aside from that one fudged octave, a breathtakingly virtuosic performance. Michelangeli's tone is golden, his articulation impeccable, his view of the work magisterial, and, aside from that one slip, technically flawless. Jan Krenz is no Giulini in terms of charisma and the Danish National Symphony is no Vienna Symphony in terms of polish, but their support here is nevertheless strong and unstinting.

Aside from its musical virtues, the best thing about this video is being able to watch Michelangeli work with Krenz and the Danish orchestra. He rarely looks up from the keyboard -- indeed, he rarely seems to open his eyes -- but thanks to the unobtrusive camerawork, one can still see him interact in small but telling ways. By the lift of an eyebrow, the tilting of his head, or the slight shifting of his position on the bench, the viewer can watch Michelangeli become as one with the conductor and the orchestra. It is a sight to behold.