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Charles Timbrell
Fanfare, January 2012

FALLA, M. de: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Achucarro, Rattle) / Piano Recital: Achucarro, Joaquin (Teatro Real, 2010) (NTSC) 2058808
FALLA, M. de: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Achucarro, Rattle) / Piano Recital: Achucarro, Joaquin (Teatro Real, 2010) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 2058884

On the basis of this DVD, I can say that [ Joaquín Achúcarro] is a true pianist’s pianist, a complete musician who lives and breathes every note he plays and who communicates the composer’s intentions simply and directly. …musically he is fully engaged at all times, even when playing the simplest melody in quarter notes. He does not put on a show, but what he has to show pianistically is quite extraordinary.

Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a good match for his elegant playing, with lively evocations of guitars and some bold as well as impressionistic pianism. …pianists and pianophiles alike will be fascinated as well as moved by Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit and Valses nobles et sentimentales.

All this would have been enough, but then we are given an entrancing Valses nobles, one of the most coloristic accounts I know. And then, after Falla’s overly long and loud Fantasia baetica , we get a perfect encore, Scriabin’s dreamy Nocturne for the Left Hand, in which God seems to play the melody.

If I have ever seen a video of a musician who truly serves the music, this is it. I hope we will have more soon from this great artist. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

James Reel
Fanfare, January 2012

FALLA, M. de: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Achucarro, Rattle) / Piano Recital: Achucarro, Joaquin (Teatro Real, 2010) (NTSC) 2058808
FALLA, M. de: Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Achucarro, Rattle) / Piano Recital: Achucarro, Joaquin (Teatro Real, 2010) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) 2058884

Achúcarro has delivered a recital that conveys each score with what appears to be a natural understanding of every phrase, everything performed with individuality and a full degree of color without resorting to garish gestures…You need this video. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Jeffrey Kauffman, August 2011

Joaquin Achúcarro Simon Rattle Nights in the Gardens of Spain is an incredibly evocative and endlessly enjoyable trip to Andalusia, Granada, Navarre and points in between. This is some of the most unbelievably gorgeous music of the early 20th century, and the fact that so much of it is still incredibly popular today speaks volumes about the seemingly eternal allure of this region and its native musics. Though some of these pieces adapt folktunes from the region, what’s so striking is how effortlessly so many composers—including French ones—were able to cull a truly Spanish feel from their own individual vocabularies. While Nights in the Gardens of Spain is the showcase here (and what a showcase it is), the overall Blu-ray offers a wonderful assortment of pieces that have either outright or tangential Spanish connections, and that means pieces with shimmering harmonies and a lot of very propulsive, complex rhythmic elements. Achúcarro is obviously well qualified to interpret these beautiful pieces, and he brings true artistry to his playing. Highly recommended.

Lawrence Devoe, August 2011

The Performance

With the passing of Alicia de Larrocha, Joaquin Achucarro has assumed the mantle of Spain’s leading pianist. This disc of mostly Spanish and French piano repertoire shows that Senor Achucarro has got impressionist music in his DNA. This 2009 program begins with a performance of Manuel de Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain, with the soloist capably accompanied by maestro Simon Rattle and his Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. From the performances that I have seen featuring this conductor and ensemble, it is at once obvious that they can manage symphonic music of virtually any provenance. Although the recording does not give particular prominence to the piano, the synergy between soloist and orchestra is exemplary. The second half of the program is a brilliant recital, given in Madrid’s Teatro Real, of Spanish favorites from Albeniz (Navarra), de Falla (Hommage; Fantasia beatica), and Granados (La Maya y la Ruisenor) and French showpieces of Ravel (Gaspard de la Nuit, Valses Nobles et Sentimentales), Debussy (La Puerto del Vino, Le Soir dans le Grenade), with Scriabin’s Nocture as a chaser. For fans of old school pianism, does this disc ever deliver las mercancias or the goods!

Video Quality

First of all, you should be alerted that the Berlin half of the program is filmed rather than videoed. This results in a much softer image with noticeable motion artifacts from the players. The situation improves dramatically with the solo recital from Madrid where the closeups of pianist Achucharro and his instrument are beautifully done. Solo piano recitals are challenging for videographers since there is little if any stage action so there has to be judicious alternation of closeups and more distant cutaways. Fortunately, that is well accomplished here by director Angel Luis Ramirez.

Audio Quality

Again, the audio quality of the two program halves varies considerably by venue. While the Berliner Philharmonie is no slouch as an orchestral hall, the recording engineers give a rather distant perspective to the proceedings and this undermines the potential advantages of the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The good news is that the solo piano recital receives a superb recording complete with piano overtones and a real sense of presence.

Supplemental Materials

As is EuroArt’s wont, there are trailers for other EA videos but nothing about these performances. Many viewers outside of Spain may be totally unfamiliar with Joaquin Achucarro and I, for one, would have enjoyed at least an interview about his career and interests.

The Definitive Word


Regardless of my reservations about the recording qualities of the Berlin Philharmonic portion of this program, there are none about the musical collaboration between the Berliners, Sir Simon Rattle, and Sr. Joaquin Achucarro. This Nights in the Gardens of Spain gives viewers an excellent performance of a favorite piano “concerto” cast in the form of a tone poem. The “Falla and Friends” solo recital from Madrid brings this BD to another level entirely. Having grown up with 24/7 piano playing by a mother trained as a concert pianist, I have life-long familiarity with this instrument and its repertoire. Achucarro tackles some pretty formidable works like the “Scarbo” movement from Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, generally accepted as one of the great knuckle-busters in the literature. While I have heard technically more brilliant performances of this piece, I do not recall one that is more musically appealing or less apparently effortful. This observation could well be applied to any or all of the rest of the program. I would recommend that those coming to this Achucarro BD start with the solo recital and anticipate being mesmerized by this outstanding soloist as was I.

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7:51:30 PM, 4 October 2015
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