Acorn Media
A performance by French cellist Henri Demarquette is part of "The 2007 Newport Music Festival — Connoisseur's Collection."
"THE 2007 NEWPORT MUSIC FESTIVAL — CONNOISSEUR'S COLLECTION," various artists, Acorn Media, $124.99 ****

For more than three decades, pianist, musical entrepreneur and impresario Mark P. Malkovich III has been running the Newport Music Festival in Newport, R.I. Under his leadership, the event has blossomed and become a major player in what is now a crowded summer music-festival arena.

As director, Malkovich has always enjoyed presenting his audiences with innovative programming. For him, that means finding rare and rarely played works and mixing them with pieces from the standard piano and chamber music repertoire. It's worked fabulously, as the success of the Newport Music Festival attests.

Among artists he engages, Malkovich has been a strong proponent of bringing in young unknown talent, many of whom have made their U.S. debuts at the festival. In the past, Andrei Gavrilov, Mikhail Pletnev and Jean-Philippe Collard — just to name a few pianists — gave their first American recitals at Newport. And that trend continues today.

Recently, Acorn Media released an enthralling 10-disc DVD set of the 2007 festival. With a total of some 15 hours of performances, ranging from solo piano, vocal and chamber music, it has something for every taste.

The piano repertoire is central to the Newport festival, and last year's is no exception. Among the younger talent represented is then-20-year-old keyboard sensation Adam Golka, who gives a stunning performance of works by Schubert, Chopin, Liszt and others that displays his impeccable musicality and dazzling technique.

Among the pianists last year was Collard, both in concert with French cellist Henri Demarquette (in wondrous performances of Chopin's B minor Cello Sonata and Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata) and in recital (a gorgeously played set of Chopin pieces).

A delightful surprise is Indonesian pianist Eduardus Halim's beautifully played recital of works by Schumann, consisting of "Waldszenen," op. 82; the Fantasy in C major; and the Sonata in F sharp minor, op. 11. Each is given a sensitive reading that captures the lush romanticism with subtle expressiveness and warm lyricism.

The Colorado Quartet, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is featured in a program of Haydn ("Emperor" Quartet, op. 76, no. 3), Beethoven (op. 18, no. 5) and Dvorak (no. 14, op. 105). While their account of the Haydn is a little rough around the edges, the Beethoven is nicely played, But they truly come into their own with the Dvorak, which is given a gorgeously romantic reading.

On the lighter side, there is a charming offbeat concert with pianist John Bayless and soprano Valerie Wilson Morris. While the majority of the program is a serious recital of Mozart arias, they lighten it up with a hilarious rendition of the Papageno/Papagena duet from "The Magic Flute," with Bayless singing (or at least giving his best imitation of singing) Papageno's part.

Also on the same disc is organist Hector Olivera playing an arrangement of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" in its entirety. It's dramatic and filled with effects, and Olivera pulls no punches in his over-the-top performance. Priceless.

This set is a wonderful sampling of what one can expect at the Newport festival. It's a glorious collection and well worth having. This is reality TV at its best.


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