The age of relatively inexpensive digital video in the form of the DVD is surely a god-send to classical music buffs. Many old performances captured on film and analogue video tape are being re-mastered and re-released, material that the vast majority of us would otherwise not have the chance to watch and listen to.
It was Barenboim’s Beethoven sonata cycle on DVD that got me all fired up about Beethoven (particularly the late sonatas). I first encountered this DVD set when I watched Barenboim giving a masterclass with Jonathan Biss as pianist, on a flight way back in early 2007. It took me months to find it before accidentally coming across a link to it in the EMI catalogue.
Now it is Brendel’s Schubert DVD set that has helped me discover Schubert’s piano works for two hands. I saw it on Amazon.com some time ago, and finally decided to get it on account of some remarks that Brendel had made about Schubert (can’t remember where now). Each piece is accompanied by an introduction by Brendel. The performances are riveting. I am particularly grateful to the director of the series, who shot mostly from the left and slightly behind but some distance away from the piano. This allows the viewer full view of Brendel’s hands and feet. The latter allows the viewer to watch Brendel’s pedal technique. You can see how much he uses the damper pedal (I think too much), and how much (actually a surprising amount) he uses the una corda pedal to help him control dynamics.
If you are wondering why I am only now getting into Beethoven and Schubert, well, blame my past teachers.