Zubin Mehta and Güher & Süher Pekinel in Concert
DVD + CD (2012/2014)

John Sunier, 30.10.2014

Performers: Güher & Süher Pekinel, duo-pianists; Zubin Mehta conducting Orch. del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (in Bartok)
Lorenzo D’Attoma & Fausto Cesare Bombardier, percussion

Program: BARTOK: Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orch.; SCHUBERT: Fantasy in f; MOZART: Sonata for Two Pianos in D; DEBUSSY: En blanc et noir; INFANTE: Sentimento (fr. Danses Andalouses); POULENC: Elegie for Two Pianos; LUTOSLAWSKI: Variations on a theme by Paganini; BRAHMS: Hungarian Dance No. 5; MILHAUD: Brazileiras (fr. Scaramouche)

Studio: SWR/Unitel Classica/ArtHaus Musik 102 191 [Distr. by Naxos] (9/30/14)
Directors: Tiziano Mancini & Christoph Engel
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color
Audio: PCM stereo
Subtitles: English

No Region Code
Extras: Bonus works performed, by BARTOK, SCHUBERT, DEBUSSY & BRAHMS
Length: DVD – 111 mins.; CD – 61 min.
Rating: *****

This is the third video of the identical twin Pekinel sisters duo-piano team we have reviewed in the past. Here is the earlier one, and here is the second.

While the sisters definitely look older now (the first video was shot in 2001), they are at the top of their game and competing well with the popular Lebeque Sisters as well as other two-piano duos doing a lot of recording lately. The Bartok video performance was made during the 2012 festival at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale in Florence, Italy, and the rest of the program—the piano four hands and two-piano selections—was shot in 2010 at the Ludwigsburg International Music Festival in Germany. Mehta (although his name is in the biggest type on the cover) only conducts the orchestra on the Bartok Concerto for Two Pianos.

This entire program, including the Bartok Concerto, has also been released on a double-CD by ArtHaus (101 792), which does not abbreviate the program as does the CD included with this DVD.

I don’t know if there is another video recording of the Bartok Concerto, but this one is clearly the winner on the disc and I see why they placed it first. To see the various percussion instruments as well as the two pianos adds a great deal to enjoyment of the performance. Bartok’s leaning on the melodic percussion such as the marimbas adds tremendously to the work. And the clean PCM stereo translates beautifully to any of the pseudo-surround processors. The sisters report that they were very enthusiastic about the Teldec/Warner recording of the Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and also various abstract expressionistic painters. Their own abstract paintings are included on pages of the video folder where the two discs are nested. Since the CD doesn’t hold nearly as much as the DVD, it is limited to only three selections plus the Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 encore. But it is nice to have it for playing in the car or elsewhere. (Two-piano CDs always sound terrific in the car.)

The unaccompanied part of the program is well chosen and diversified. It opens with the serious four-hand Schubert Fantasy—a very lovely and deeply-felt performance of this tragic work. Then the light-hearted Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos. This is also beautifully done, but has some competition from the first selection on the audio-only 2L Blu-ray we reviewed some years ago.

The Lebeques have also recorded the Debussy two-piano work and I’m having a difficult time deciding on the best one, although it is nice to see the Pekinel sisters in action. By the way, they have such a psychic connection that during the actual two-piano works such as this one, they don’t do the typical nested-grand-pianos, but instead have both side by side, but one ahead of the other, so the front sister doesn’t see her twin at all. One of the sisters says that their intution helps them “transcribe surprises into music.” The Infante, Poulenc and Milhaud selections are light, tuneful and full of life, while the Lutoslawski Variations is an amazingly complex and fast-moving work which is thrilling to see being performed instead of just hearing it.

The note booklet, some of which is written by the Pekinels, is interesting reading. The only slight distraction are the mouth movements of one of the two sisters, which disturbed me somewhat on the earlier videos as well. But she is smiling so much and seems to have such joy in performing (compared to the other sister) that that is easily forgiven.


Béla Bartók: Concerto for 2 Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, BB 121

Franz Schubert: Fantasie in F Minor, Op. 103, D. 940

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata for 2 Pianos in D Major, K. 448

Claude Debussy: En blanc et noir

Manuel Infante: 3 Danses Andalouses: No. 2. Sentimiento

Francis Poulenc: Élégie for 2 Pianos, FP 175

Witold Lutosławski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini

Johannes Brahms: 21 Hungarian Dances, WoO 1: No. 5 in F-Sharp Minor (arr. G and S. Pekinel for 2 pianos)

Darius Milhaud: Scaramouche, Op. 165b: III. Brazileira