LISZT: Les Preludes. KREISLER: Concerto in One Movement after Paganini.
SIBELIUS: Scene with Cranes from Kurakikotaus, Op. 44 No. 2. MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL:
Pictures at an Exhibition. JOHANN STRAUSS II: Vienna Blood Waltz.Vom
SCHUMANN: Manfred, Op. 115
BEETHOVEN: Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72. SCHOENBERG: Variations
for Orchestra, Op. 31. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor,
Op. 74 "Pathétique." MOZART: Sinfonia concertante
in E flat, K. 297b.
Every year there is a gala outdoor concert in the expansive Schönbrunn Gardens, one of the most important cultural monuments in Austria. This historic site houses the magnificent Schönbrunn Palace, auxiliary buildings and acres of beautiful landscapes and is a popular tourist attraction. The concert June 2, 2011 featured the Vienna Philharmonic, children from the Vienna State opera Ballet School, members of the Vienna State Opera Ballet, all conducted by Valery Gergiev. Young German violinist Benjamin Schmid plays the first movement of Kreisler's version of Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 1, and the Sibelius work is played in memory of victims of Japan's earthquake/tsunami last March. It appears a special stage was constructed for the occasion, and the there were several huge TV monitors to let more of the thousands of people attending see what was going on. There also was a separate stage for dancers, who had the awkward task of performing to Pictures at an Exhibition, and several other works. The Vienna Philharmonic was in top form, and video close ups lets us see them very clearly along with many flashing lights, scenery changing colors, and modest fireworks at the conclusion. There's little difference between the stereo and 5.0 audio formats; this is surely not the sound of the Vienna Philharmonic. If you'd like to experience the visual splendors of Schönbrunn, this is an easy way to do so, but for a musical experience look elsewhere.
Earlier this year this site mentioned a SACD issue of Schumann's complete Manfred conducted by Bruno Weil (REVIEW). Now we have this live performance filmed last year at concerts in the Tonhalle Düsseldorf in a production directed and visualized by Johannes Deutsch. This was part of the "Schumann2010" event in which the composer's complete works were performed. Deutsch is recognized for his work with digital visual images. In March 2008 this site was not impressed with his vision of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW). For two years Deutsch worked on Schumann's Manfred basing his creation on the physical resemblance of the Tonhalle concert hall which is rather like a planetarium. He created more than 1,400 images which are shown above the audience often grouped together all displayed on a large oval screen above the orchestra. On this we often see Manfred's face as he tells his story. The design of the oval screen. is rather odd—it, unfortunately, looks like a medical diagram of a body organ. The performance is excellent in every way. Soloists are in with the orchestra. We do not always see what the audience saw; there are many closeups of details. Video gives the orchestra an orange tint. Sound is adequate, but not surround. Subtitles are in German, French and English. Approach with caution!
Daniel Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 drawing from musicians in Israel, Palestine and Arab countries. It's a first-rate ensemble that is in residence at the Salzburg Festival where this concert was given in 2007. Oddly, the Mozart is listed as a bonus. Excellent performances indeed, particularly the Schoenberg, but as Pathétiques come and go, this one is far from the top of the list. The orchestra does not have a big sound as recorded here and the visuals of Barenboim emoting do not ring true. Excellent video and audio, but this, for me, a concert of limited interest. The audio of the Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky was released several months ago on a Decca.CD
R.E.B. (September 2011)