STRAVINSKY: Symphony of Psalms. MUSSORGSKY: Songs and Dances of Death. PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 5 in B flat, Op. 100.
Sergei Semishkur, tenor; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
EUROARTS DVD TT: 90 min.
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Anja Herteros, soprano; Bernarda Fink, alto; Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus and Orch/Mariss Jansons, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 96 min
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BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92. Egmont Overture, Op. 84. HANDEL: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Solomon (Fritz Reiner, cond.). BACH-STOKOWSKI: Toccata and Fugue in D minor. BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Haydn. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio Espagnole, Op. 34. (Leopold Stokowski, cond.). HINDEMITH: Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Op. 50. BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 (first movement). BRAHMS: Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80. (Paul Hindemith, cond.)
CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
VIDEO ARTISTS INTERNATIONAL DVD 4237 TT: 141 min.
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Here is the opening concert from the 2012 Salzburg Festival taped July 29 in the large Festival House, a rather odd program for a festive occasion. After the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms we hear Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death sung not by a bass or bass-baritone as the composer intended, but by a tenor, and a very fine one, Sergei Semishkur, a star of the Mariinsky Opera. But the powerful song cycle is presented in an arrangement by contemporary Russian composer Alexander Raskatov, highly regarded on the contemporary Russian musical scene. Mussorgsky wrote his song cycle originally for voice and piano. Othersmany have orchestrated it including Dimitri Shostakovich, Kalevi Aho, and Ramon Lazkano. Raskatov has his own ideas about the music and has added three brief Interludes that have a very contemporary sound, with electric guitar, subtle jazzy sounds, and many quotes from Boris Godunov. It is nothing I would care to hear again. The concert ends with a fiery account of Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, with the Vienna Philharmonic in top form. Excellent video and sound.

We have a plethora of recordings of Mahler's Resurrection: ArkivMusic lists well over 60 performances of which seven are DVDs including two conducted by Mariss Jansons. The first was with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, December 2009 (REVIEW) It is also available in the RCOA Live series in a set with two SACDs plus the DVD, and also it is part of the recent RCOA big Mahler set (REVIEW). Now we have this new one from Munich's Philharmonic Hall, concerts of May 13/15, 2011. A special feature of this concert is that it opens with an arrangement for a capella choir by Clytus Gottwald, distinguished German composer, conductor and musicologist, who is leader of the Schola Cantorum Stuttgart. He has made many arrangements for up to sixteen voices, including music of Wagner, Mahler, Ravel, Debussy and contemporary composers. His transcriiption of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen ("I am lost to the world") from Mahler's Rückert-Lieder. It is a masterpiece of its kind, beautifully sung here, and a perfect prelude to the gigantic symphony. This is surely among the finest Resurrections you will hear, the Bavarian Orchestra and chorus are superb, and Brian Large does his usual expert job directing the video, with cameras almost always exactly where they should be. It sounds as if the off-stage brass in the final movement are indeed offstage with an appropriately distant sound. Audio is very bright, but super-clear and impressive. The only negative feature here is that the entire final movement has but one track (36:37); if you wish to hear the choral ending you'll have to do a lot of fast-forwarding. Otherwise, first-rate in every way. Don't overlook the superb DVDs by Riccardo Chailly (REVIEW), Claudio Abbado (REVIEW), and Bermard Haitink (REVIEW).

The Chicago Symphony video is fascinating and treasurable. The CSO televised many special concerts in its early years, the first in 1951 with a reduced orchestra, augmented considerably two years later. Many conductors appeared including Fritz Reiner, Leopold Stokowski, Rafael Kubelik, Jean Martinon, Bruno Walter, Ernest Ansermet, William Steinberg, Antal Dorati, Erich Leinsddorf and many others. Many of the filmed concerts still exist and we are fortunate now to be able to see some of them. What a treat it is to watch no-nonsense Fritz Reiner conducting Beethoven—and here he uses a large baton (often it was said that his beat was so miniscule it was difficult to see—not so here). Reiner's performances were filmed without an audience as were those by Stokowski who gives vivid renditions of his famous Bach D-minor Toccata and Fugue, the Brahms Haydn Variations and a wild interpretation of Capriccio Espagnole (with a unique harp cadenza). The Hindemith performanes were in Orchestra Hall. Video is primitive, but surprisingly clear. Cameramen do their best to try to spotlight solos and often succeed. Audio is dry and harsh except for the Hindemith performances which benefitted from the warmer acoustics of the venue. Let us hope there will be many more of these historic, important televised concerts.

R.E.B. (June 2013).

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