SMETANA: Ma Vlase
GERSHWIN: An American in Paris. Rhapsody in Blue. Piano Concerto in
F. LINCK: Berlin Luft.
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 55 "Eroica."
The opening of the 69th International Music Festival in Prague in September 2014 took place in Smetana Hall of of the Municipal House in Prague. It was a gala occasion featuring the famed Czech Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jiri Belohlavek, \long associated with the orchestra, on the podium. The program features the most famous music in Czech musical history, Smetana's My Fatherland, a work long associated with both orchestra and conductor have (they recorded it in 1990 for Supraphon). The CPO also recorded it previously with Karel Ancerl, Libor Pesek and , Sir Charles Mackerras, and there also is a DVD conducted b Ancerl from a concert in 1968. This new video is stunning in every way. The orchestra was expanded and produces a huge sound (there are four harps!), and the interpretation could not be bettered. Czech TV did the filming and they did a superb job with the camera always in the correct place, and the audio places us right in the concert hall. An outstanding release!
Seiji Ozawa was on the podium with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2003 for their outdoors concert at Waldbühren, Berlin's huge outdoor amphitheater. An all-Gershwin concert, it featured the jazz artistry of Markus Roberts assisted by his Jazz Trio. This is a terrific, and unusual concert. Ozawa seems an unlikely choice for Gershwin, but he presents vibrant performances of the purely orchestral works. He doesn't have much to do when Marcus Roberts takes over. These performances of Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F are largely jazz improvisations, and they are fascinating indeed. They are rather like imaginative fantasies on the scores. The capacity audience loved it all. The entire program is a delight, and it ends with the usual Paul Lincke Berliner Luft. This concert has been issued before; here it is now on Blu Ray looking and sounding better than ever.
This performance of Beethoven's Eroica might be considered a tribute to the Dutch conductor Franz Brüggen (b. 1934) who died last year. Brüggen was a virtuoso recorder performer and did much to create new interest in performing Baroque music in the original style. He recorded profusely including all of the Beethoven symphonies played by the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, which he founded in 198. These are highly regarded among collectors, if you enjoy the scaled-down ensemble. This performance of the Eroica was recorded in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw in 1987, a crisp reading with a scherzo that begins at a super-brisk tempo before it settles down. The orchestra here has the benefit of the warm acoustics of the venue. Those who admire this important conductor will welcome this issuer. It is unfortunate more music wasn't included.
R.E.B. (Novembe 2015)