SHOSTAKOVICH: The Golden Age
Soloists, Ballet and Orch. of the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Russia / Pavel Klinichev, cond
BEL AIR DVD TT: 103 min.
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JOHN CAGE: Music for Percussion
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
MODE DVD TT: 152 min. (including 73 min interview with Whiting)
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E flat
Riccarda Merbeth, Juliane Banse, Anna Lucia Richter, sopranos; Sara Mingardo, Mihoko Fujimura, altos; Andreas Schager, tenor; Peter Mattei, baritone; Samuel Youn, bass. Bavarian Radio Chorus. Latvian Radio Chorus. Orfeón Donostiarra. Tölzer Knabenchor. Lucene Festival Orchestra / Riccardo Chailly, cond.
ACCENTUS DVD TT: 92:56
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This Bolshoi production of Shostakovich's The Golden Age is spectacular. The humorous ballet, composed in 1930, is based on the battle and triumph of the proletariat against the decadent bourgeoisie. It is a series of brilliant dances many influenced by music of the Roaring Twenties with emphasis on Jazz. In 1982. legendary choreographer Yuri Grigorovichs created a new production with sets by Simon Visualize and a completely new libretto revolving around the love story between Rita, a cabaret dancer, and Boris, a young idealist. The production was revived in 2017 and that is what we enjoy on this DVD. It is dazzling in every way, a constant delight, and each member of the huge cast is both a dancer and a gymnist. There's never a dull moment! DV D notes give the scenario track by track but don't identify the four sections that have been extracted for the familiar orchestral suite. And they do not mention the charming music heard at the beginning of the second act is Shostakovich's hastily-prepared arrangement of Tea for Two by Vincent Youmans. Video is bright, audio has capture the sound of the small orchestra most realistically. This is another terrific ballet video. Don't miss it!

Imaginative percussionist Bonnie Whiting here presents a disk of music of John Cage, some of it for "a speaking percussionist." She is seated at a piano, makes odd vocal "singing" sounds, and plays Cage's "music." The video also includes a lengthy commentary by Whiting's mentor, Allen Otte, who performs his own work for speaker/percussionist created around works of John Cage. I found this to be a totally non-musical experience, and could not listen to all of it, nor do I care to. Video and audio are fine, but this is a disk I never will return to. You have been warmed. If you love music, skip this one!

Riccardo Chailly is one of today's prinme interpreters of music of Gustav Mahler. During his tenure as Music Director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra he recorded all of the symphonies. Now that he leads the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, he has already made videos of most of them, many of which have been praised on this site. His 2000 Decca performance of Symphony No. 8 was released on DVD Audio (REVIEW), but it didn't stay in the catalog for long. Chailly's Leipzig Mahler 8, recorded in 2011, is magnificent (REVIEW). This new one from the Lucerne Festival, which was intended to be in honor of the late Claudio Abbado who directed the Festival for many years, is not as impressive. Perhaps because of stage limitations, both chorus and orchestra are somewhat smaller than in Leipzig. This is a dedicated performance, but there is no question that the Leipzig performance is superior. Excellent audio and vide

 

R.E.B. (July 2017)