RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 6 in A
About two years ago this site unenthusiastically mentioned a Naxos DVD of Rimsky-Korsakov's Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, a production from the Cagliari Opera that hardly suggests the magnificence of this unusual opera (REVIEW).Check that review for comments about this unusual work, which some have called the Russian Parsifal, combining two legends and the forces of good and evil. focusing on Saint Fevroniya. This is a period opera and I won't forget the magnificent Bolshoi Opera production I saw almost a half-century ago. This new production by the Netherlands Opera directed by Dmitri Tcherniakov is a dismal affair. He is credited as author of the synopsis, but there is nothing in the DVD booklet to explain his approach to the opera. In his comments in the "bonus" he explains some of his ideas about Kitezh, suggesting that sometimes there are conflicts between the director and conductor. Theseare also mentioned by Marc Albrecht, who doubtless disagreed with Tcherniakov.on many points—and rightfully so Tcherniakov also designed the sets, and much of the action takes place in a rowdy tavern. The destruction of Kitezh is quite effective, with lots of realistic fire; otherwise all is rather drab. The singers are uniformly good, particularly Svetlana Ignatovich as the doomed maiden, and the chorus is splendid. They were expertly trained by Martin Wright who in the bonus explains that there was a website for chorus members to use to help their Russian pronunciation. Applause at the end is less than enthusiastic, barely enough for curtain calls, and Tcherniakov does not appear on stage (or perhaps he did but was edited out). All of the magic and mystery of the opera are absent. in this ill-advised production, Excellent audio and video, but screen setup is awkward and difficult to use. Perhaps we will some day see a production of this remarkable opera that does justice to it—let us hope.
The Berlin Philharmonic's Europakonzart series is an extraordinary event. Every year since 1990 the famed orchestra has gives a concert to commemorate their founding in 1882, each time in a different venue, called Europakonzert. The 2000 concert was given in Berlin's famed Philharmonie, where the inaugural concert was given October 15, 1963 with Herbert von Karajan conducting Beethoven' Symphony No. 9. The 2000 concert featured Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with Claudio Abbado conducting, already issued on DVD (REVIEW). Many of the Europakonzerts have been mentioned on this site including 1998 (Abbado), 2000 (Abbado), 2001 (Rattle), 2006 (Barenboim), 2013 (Rattle) Now we have this exciting 2001 concert presented in Istanbul , and it is outstanding in every way. Mariss Jansons conducted and the program included one of his specialties, the Berlioz Fantastique.The concert was given in the gorgeous Hagia Eoreme church in Istanbul May 1, 2001. The church is quite narrow and looks as if the audience was at most 1,500. Doubtless the acoustic was highly resonant, but engineers have captured the Berlin Philharmonic with clarity and warmth. No reason is given why the two harps are placed on the main floor in front of the podium. Video is brilliant, and we see many scenes of the church and Istanbul, all in vivid HD. The glow on instruments is burnished, and it is a pleasure to observe the two huge bells being struck in the finale of the Berlioz. Emanuel Pahud, who was appointed principal flute of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1993, was masterful soloist in the Mozart concerto. It does seem odd that there were no encores, considering the enthusiastic audience response. Bonuses include scenes of preparation for the concert and a mini-tour of the fantastically beautiful city. A terrific enjoyable release in every way!
About a year ago this site unenthusiastically mentioned the first release in Daniel Barenboim's new series of Bruckner's "mature" symphonies, Symphony No. 4, with the Berlin Staaskapelle (REVIEW). No. 5 also is available, and here we have the next installment, Symphony No. 6, the composer's "lightweight" symphony. It is quite different from the other symphonies, often with long melodic lines; someone once said it was the closest Bruckner ever cam to writing "movie" music. Barenboim has enjoyed a long association with Bruckner, having recorded all of the symphonies some years ago in Chicago. Should you wish to have his latest thoughts on the work, here it is, isolated on a single disk when it could have been coupled with another symphony in this new series. I imagine most listeners would stick with the Günter Wand recording available at modest price in a set that also contains symphonies 5, 8 and 9 as well as symphonies of Haydn and Schubert.
R.E.B. (February 2014)