BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis
JANACEK: The Cunning Little Vixen
BRITTEN: Peter Grimes
This site previously has mentioned two excellent videos of Missa Solemnis, a historic Salzburg performance with Herbert von Karajan (REVIEW), and a very recent Dresden presentation with Christian Thielemann on the podium (REVIEW).This latest performance of the mighty Missa Solemnis is edited from concerts in the Concertgebouw April 19-25, 2012. Nikolaus Harnoncourt first conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1975 and has conducted them often, making dozens of acclaimed recordings. He is now honored as the Honorary Guest Conductor. This is his second recording of Missa Solemnis—his first was a live recording from the Salzburg Festival about a decade ago. Harnoncourt has made some questionable decisions about repertory, particularly his recordings of Gershwin and Verdi, but he is on home ground here in this glorious performance. Soloists are perfect, the chorus committed, and the famous orchestra gives their best. An outstanding release. I viewed it on the Blu Ray edition, which is state-of-the-art—but one cannot help but wonder why the Blu Ray version should cost almost twice as much as the regular DVD. This also applies to the Britten opera mentioned below, but the Janacek opera is the same price for regular or blu-ray. What thought process determines this? Often the difference between regular DVD and blu ray are minimal if noticeable at all.
About two years ago, this site mentioned a remarkable historic video of Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, a 1965 German film directed by Walter Felsenstein (REVIEW). Now we have a brand new production of Janice's opera about life and death in the forest filmed at the Glydenbourn Festival in June 2012. It is a magnificent presentation of the opera, realistic in design and perfectly sung. Melly Still directed and makes certain that there are many animal antics—always a lot to watch. Tom Tye's design is effective, a single large many-branched tree that can be wither beautiful or menacing, depending on circumstances. Dinah Collins' costumes work well, and lighting recreates changing scenes effectively. A brief bonus features Jurowski talking about the music and the production, and the DVD booklet contains a helpful track by track synopsis of action. Video is brilliant, audio excellent although not particularly surround. This is a quality presentation of an opera that meant much to the composer; he requested that the final scene be performed at his funeral in 1928.
There already are a number of fine videos of Britten's Peter
Grimes: three have been reviewed on this site:
R.E.B. (June 2013)