WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
Jon Fredrik West (Tristan). Waltraud Meier (Isolde). Kurt Moll (King Marke). Bernd Weikl (Kurwenal). Claes H. Annsjö (Melot). Marjana Lipovek (Brangäne). Chorus and Orchestra of the Bavarian Opera/Zubin Mehta, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD TT: 100 057 (2 disks) TT: 241 min
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THE GRAND ORGAN OF LIVERPOOL METROPOLITAN CATHEDRAL / RICHARD LEA
SUSATO-PURCELL: Mohentanz and Rigaudon. FJELLESTAD: Toccata. MASON: A Song of Sunshine. ADAMS: The Holy City. BACH: Liebster Jesu wir sind Hier, BWV 731. BONNET: In Memoriam - Titanic. RAWSTHORNE: Prelude on Londonderry Air. MARTIN: Theme One. McCARTNEY: Save the Child. LISZT: Fantasia and Fugue on Ad Nos Ad Salutarem Undam.
Richard Lea, organ
PRIOTY PRDVD 10 (3 disks: Blu Ray video/DVD/CD)
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BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73. Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90. Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op 98. "Discovering Brahms"
Dresden State Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
C MAJOR DVD 715204 (2 disks) TT: 119 min. + 52 min. bonus / 90 min.
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German soprano Waltrud Meier (b. 1968) is a force of nature. Who would have thought that a singer who made her operatic debut in 1978 as Lola in Cavalleria rusticana would become a reigning queen of the dramatic soprano operatic world? Her range and power are extraordinary; she sings mezzo roles (Carmen/Delilah) and major roles in Wagner, Italian and French opera.. A consummate artist, she is willing to go along with misguided directors and on occasion appear in inappropriate productions, some of which are on DVD. Meier already has two videos of Tristan and Isolde, both from Bayreuth conducted by Daniel Barenboim, a 1983 production staged by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Rene Kollo as Tristan(REVIEW), the other from 1995 staged by Heiner Müller with Siegfried Jerusalem.. Ponnelle's production was beautiful indeed, perhaps a bit quirky (Isolde sings her Liebestod to a live Tristan). Müller's modern production is stark but inoffensive, taking place for the most part in barren rooms although there are a few scattered lounge chairs. This new DVD is a performance from Munich on unspecified dates in 1998, a production of the Bavarian Radio on the same stage where in 1865 Tristan had its premiere. Peter Konwitschny was director, and he also updates the story and adds his own touches. Again Meier sings her Liebestod to a live Tristan after which they slowly walk offstage; we then see two graves. The cast throughout is excellent—and Meier is at her best. The camera is focused close up on her during the Liebestod, and her emotional journey is quite remarkable. Brian Large did his usual expert job as video director, and audio is fine. An interesting Tristan indeed!

Those who love the organ surely are delighted with the efforts of Priory Records, which has been around for more than three decades. Their focus is choral and church music with particular emphasis on the organ. Their engineering is outstanding, and they have hundred of disks in their catalog. Here we have one of their new DVD releases, featuring performances by Richard Lea playing the grand organ of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, the program listed above. Both the Blu Ray and regular DVD contain the program in 5.1 surround sound with video. We see many views of the inside of the magnificent church, scenes of the city, and often we watch Lea playing the multiple keyboards with an assistant, Charlotte Rowan, who turns pages and supplies extra hands when needed. The CD is the same audio program in stereo. Lea is a maser organist, but not particularly interesting to watch—don't expect Cameron Carpenter! There is a problem with set-up. If you click on set-up, you go to a screen that shows positions of all five surround sound speakers and the subwoofer. Audio test signals are provided for each, and there is no way to exit without going through the whole thing. There is no option for two-channel sound. At any rate, organ aficionados doubtless will enjoy this issue.

This set of Brahms symphonies was taped in two venues: Symphonies 1 and 3 are from a concert in Tokyo's NHK Hall October 22, 2012, symphony No. 2 in Dresden's Semperoper January 24-27, 2013, and symphony No. 4 in the same location April 7-9,2013. These are grand, big-scale performances of remarkable power and beauty, with particular attention to dynamics. The orchestra is superb, and their glowing sounds have been captured to perfection by both engineering teams. Camera work is right on, with countless close ups of featured players. The second disk also contans a 52-minute film Discovering Brahms by Christopher Engel in which we see Thielemann discussing the symphonies and his approach to the music interspersed with excerpts from the performances, which I found of limited interest. However, these performances demand attention. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (January 2014)

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