EVENING TALKS - A film by Georges Gachot about Martha Argerich.
SPONTINI: La Fuga in Maschera
About five years ago, this site mentioned the supeb Georges Gachot film Evening Talks, casual interviews with pianist Martha Argerich. For more details about this, please check that REVIEW. Now we have the same film issued on Blu Ray. This is an intriguing release showing the remarkable artist totally at ease discussing a variety of subjects—but if you have the original issue, there's no need to get the blu-ray version. If there's any improvement in video, it is minimal. In either format, this is a recommended DVD..
The Mahler Chamber Orchestra has been around for 16 years. The ensemble has been rcognized for its performancquality and forms the nucleus of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. They have recorded profusely, and we now have these splendid performance from a concert on on an unspecified date in 2013 in the Bruges Concert Hall. The program features "firsts.": We have Benjamin Britten's Sinfonietta, Op. 1, a student work written in 1935 at the Royal Academy of Music. This Sinfonietta is performed by eight players without conductor, and its light-hearted character is far removed from most of Britten's later works. Isserlis, soloist in Shostakovich's Concerto No. 1, again shows he is a virtuoso of his instrument and offers a brilliant performance of this mighty work. His huge mane of white curly hair sometimes obscures his face. It's interesting that the conductor turns pages for him during the concerto's cadenza. The final "first" is Symphony No. 1 of Shostakovich, played here by a small orchestra. There's no question that the work is far more impressive with larger forces, but it is interesting to hear in this chamber version. Excellent video. It is surprising that audio is only stereo—surround sound would have benefitted the ensemble.
Gasparo Spontini (1774-1851) is best known today for his dramatic opera La Vestale premiered with great success in 1807, It was highly popular and later became the vehicle for divas including Rosa Ponselle and Maria Callas—what soprano wouldn't want to be a vestal virgin? Early in his career Spontini wrote a comic operas, La Fuga in Maschera, which was lost after its premiere and not rediscovered until 2007. The first modern performance was at the Pergolesi Festival Spontini in Jesi, Italy, and this performance apparently is quite recent although no date is given. The comic opera is a delight, and there surely is no question that Rossini was influenced by it. It abounds with technically challenging singing with countless "patter" songs with rapid repetitions. The plot is about several love triangles, deceit and masquerading. The set is very simple, different colored panels hanging from the ceiling, and costumes are imaginative and often amusing. I Virtuosi Italiani is a first-class organization and plays beautifully under conductor Corrado Rovaris who manages to keep everything moving at dynamic speeds. And the young, good looking singers are quite extraordinary. They must have been exhausted by the final notes. This is an entertaining comic opera, but it is long, well over two hours. The intimate Teatro G. B. Pergolesi in Jesi apparently is not air-conditioned - most of the audience can be seen using their programs as fans. Video and audio are terrific, and there is a complete list of tracks.
R.E.B. (December 2014)