STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring. SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E flat, Op.
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C. SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 6 in
C. Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished."
DVORAK: Slavonic Dance in C minor, Op. 46 No. 1. Slavonic Dance
in C, Op. 72 No. 7. GRIEG: Symphonic Dance in A, Op. 64 No. 2.
in A minor, Op. 16. RAVEL: Alborada del gracioso. STRAUSS: Dance of the
Seven Veils from Salome.
The Rite of Spring has always been a favorite of Leonard Bernstein. In 1958 he recorded it for Columbia with the New York Philharmonic, and in 1982 again for DGG with the Israel Philharmonic. Unfortunately, neither were impressive sonically with thin orchestral sound and limited dynamic range.. In between was a 1972 recording with the London Symphony Orchestra, recorded in multi-channel sound. I never heard the quad-disk, and it surely didn't stay around long, although a two-channer mix has always been in the catalog, even though the sound is disappointing, muddy and lacking impact—the mix from multi-channel to stereo just didn't work. .It is surprising that when Sony reissued some of their quad recordings on SACD almost a decade ago, this Rite wasn't included. The stereo mix currently available is poor; doubtless multi-channels would help clear it up—we may never know. And now we have this live performance recorded in London's Croyden Hall November 27, 1966, along with Symphony No. 5 of Sibelius which concluded the concert. And both are terrific performances. The LSO is magnificent, responding brilliantly to Bernstein's detailed direction—everything is perfectly controlled, and tremendously exciting. It is said that when Stravinsky heard Bernstein's New York recording of the Rite, he said, "Wow!" and it is easy to understand why. The stereo sound is adequate to convey the performance. The Sibelius symphony, also a specialty of Bernstein, is another winner. He recorded it with the New York Philharmonic in 1961, and his performance with the Vienna Philharmonic recorded in 1988, is available on DVD (REVIEW). This new LSO DVD also includes the conductor's commentary on both Rite and the Sibelius symphony. This is a major video release.
Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997) was music director of the Chicago Symphony for 22 years beginning in 1969. Early in his career he focused on opera, and was music director of the Munich Opera (1947-1951), the Frankfurt Opera ( 1952-1961) and the Royal Opera (1961-1971). He also had associations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Orchestra of Paris. In 1995 to commemorate the 50th an anniversary of the United Nations, Solti created the World Orchestra for Peace, which included players from 41 nations, and this superb orchestra still exists. He made many superlative recordings, particularly the first complete stereo recording of The Ring with the Vienna Philharmonic, and Mahler Symphonies with the Chicago Symphony. This year the musical world is commemorating the centenary of Solti's birth (Oct. 21, 1912) and there are many tributes to his memory. One of the best is this Arthaus Musik 3 DVD set that features a remarkable film by Peter Maniura, The Making of a Maestro filmed during the last year of his life (he died September 5, 1997). It is a superb movie that includes many interviews including his lovely wife, Valerie. And we have some videos of performances that have been issued previously: Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 and Schubert's symphonies 6 and 8. The Beethoven was recorded September 5, 1978 in Royal Albert Hall, the Schubert December 5-8 1979 in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky were recorded in 1990 in Munich's Gasteig Philharmonie Hall; these apparently have not been issued before. .Video is excellent on all releases, audio reasonably good two-channel. The set also includes Solti's introduction to the two Schubert symphonies. It is fascinating, almost disturbing to watch Solti on the podium; he is rather like a vigorous aerobics session, flailing about energetically, but achieving results he wanted. This is a highly enjoyable, and important, issue.
New Year's Eve 2011 the Berlin Philharmonic presented a gala concert that featured Evgeny Kissin playing Grieg's Piano Concerto. The remainder of the program was rather a hodgepodge: a Dvorák Slavonic dance (with a second one as an encore), a Grieg Symphonie Dance, Ravel's Alborada del gracioso, Strauss' Dance of the Seven Veils, a Brahms Hungrian Dance, and the finale of Stravinsky's Firebird beginning with the Infernal Dance. Kissin is magnificent in the concerto,surely one of the finest performances ever of this familiar work, and it is surprising he didn't play an encore before the enthusiastic audience (that applauded after the first movement). And it is a pleasure to watch Kissin play—no phony exaggerations, just solid, brilliant, assured playing. The BPO is in its usual virtuoso form, video is excellent well capturing the multi-colored stage. Audio is disappointing with limited surround effect, but this DVD is worth owning just for the concerto
R.E.B. (October 2012)
(NEXT DVDVIDEO REVIEW)