BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica." Symphony No. 4 in B flat, Op. 60. Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67. Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale." Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93. Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
Renate Behle, soprano; Yvonne Naef, contralto; Glenn Winslade, tenor; Hanno Müller-Brachmann, bass; Berlin Radio Chorus; SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg/Michael Gielen, cond.
EUROARTS DVD (3 disks) TT: 110 min.+ 114 min. + 141 min.
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. November from The Seasons, Op. 37a. RACHMANINOFF: Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 32 No. 12. TSUJII: Elegy for the Victims of the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 14, Op. 135.
Nobuyuki Tsujii, piano; Olga Sergeyeva, soprano; Yuri Verobiev, bass; Mariinsky Theatre Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
EUROARTS DVD TT: 170 min.
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BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E flat "Romantic"
Berlin Staatskapelle/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
ACCENTUS DVD TT: 69:36
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German conductor Michael Gielen (b. 1927) is highly respected for his work in opera and his championing of contemporary composers. He has given many world premiers of works by Lachemann, Ligeti, Stockhausen and Zimmermann, and his recordings of Mahler symphonies have been highly praised on this site: Symphony 3 (REVIEW), Symphony 6 (REVIEW), Symphony 8 (REVIEW). Gielen has been music director of the Southwest Radio Symphony of Baden-Baden and Freiberg for about a decade (the same orchestra serves both cities, sometimes with slightly different personnel). It's a pleasure to watch this famous conductor's no-nonsense approach. Thes Beethoven symphonies were recorded in the main concert halls of both cities 1997-2000. Gielen's Beethoven is direct and adheres to the composer's brisk tempi, and he uses a rather small orchestra. His direct approach provides clarity; don't expect big orchestral sonorities. These convincing performances were praised when originally issued on separate DVDs and about a year ago they were issued on CD, a set that costs about twice as much as the new DVD compilation. Recommended.

Nobuyuki Tsujii has justly achieved fame on concert stages for his artistry and determination. Blind since his birth in 1988.,he must learn music by working with another pianist who plays the music so that Tsujii can memorize it—quite remarkable indeed. He was co-winner of the Gold Prize at the last Van Cliburn Competition, and his Carnegie Hall recital debut in March 2011, was covered on this site (REVIEW). This new DVD offers a concert presented during the White Nights Festival July 8, 2012 in the Concert Hall of Mariinsky Theatre. This festival, the largest in Russia, takes place June 11- July 12 every year during which the sun never seems to set. This concert featured Tsujii as soloist in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1. He was led onstage by Valery Gerviev, and the young pianist enthusiastically waved to his audience. His playing of the difficult concert was remarkable, quite lyrical, all those double octaves and pianistic fireworks tossed off easily. Afterwards he played the works listed above including his own Elegy, which doesn't amount to much in spite of its subject. The concert ends with a powerful performance of Shostakovich's setting of eleven poems of Frederico Garcia, his Symphony No. 14 scored for soprano,bass, string orchestra and percussion. Both soloists are superb, strongly supported by Gergiev and his fine orchestra, although this does seem to be a rather odd way to end a "festive" concert. Excellent video and audio.

About three decades ago when music director of the Chicago Symphony, Daniel Barenboim recorded all of Anton Bruckner's symphonies for DGG, rather coolly received. Now he is again recording the "mature" symphonies," taped during performances with the Berlin Staatskapelle in June 2010 in Berlin's Philharmonie Hall. These apparently were highly acclaimed in the local press. However, the first of these to be issued, the Romantic, does not not impress. The Berlin Orchestral plays well enough, presumably giving the conductor what he wanted. This symphony was Bruckner's first on a truly grand scale but doesn't sound like it here. Barenboim's reading is superficial with unconvincing tempo changes. Performances by Furtwängler, Haitink, Jochum—and many other conductors— capture the scope of this mighty symphony far more effectively. Video is excellent focusing all too often on the conductor. Audio is adequate. This is not an auspicious beginning for this mini-series.

R.E.B. (February 2013)

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