BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor
Staatskapelle Dresden / Christian Thielemann, cond.
UNITEL DVD 730508 TT: 63 min.

SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto No.. 1 in A minor, Op 77. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64.
Baiba Skride, violin. Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra / Andris Nelsons, cond.

JANACEK: From the House of the Dead
Peter Rose (Alexandr Petrovic). Evgenya Sotnikova (Aljeja). Ales Briscein (Luka Kuzmic). Charles Wokman (Skuratov). Bo Skovhus (Siskov). Manuel Gunther (Nikita). Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Simon Young, cond.
BEL AIR DVD TT: 97 min.

Christian Thielemann is known for his Bruckner; already he has recorded Symphonies 4 and 7 in Munich. This site has praised Christian Thielemann's Dresden recordings of Bruckner syphonies, and now he completes his cycle with this splendid performance of Syphony NO. 2 in C minor, recorded February 6 last year in Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie. Overall this is a major addition to the Bruckner discography - interpretively vital, beautifully played by the renowned orchestra. The multi-channel audio is first-rate, and video incoudes the many expected close-ups of important orchestral solos This is an expensive issue with playing time of only 63 minutes. Easily this could have been coupled with one of the composer's short symphonies which easily could have been accommodated on the DVD format.

Andris Nelsons has been Music Director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra since 2018, a busy man indeed as he also holds that position with the Boston Symphony. This new release is a concert recorded May 17/18, 2019. The concert begins with a performance of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 featuring the brilliant Latvian Baiba Skride (b. 1981) who is at the beginning of what promises to be a spectacular career. She already has recorded, mostly for the Oehms label, concertos of Brahms, Nielsen, Sibelius, Bart®ok, Szyanowski,Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, Martin and Shostakovich. Now she is under exclsive contract with Sony, and watching her assured performance on this new DVD it is eay to understand her aclaim. As an encore, she plays Stravinsky's Elegy fo Violin Solo, hadly he viruoso showpiece one might expect. The concert ends with a solid if rather xxxx performance of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. The reson to acquyie his DVD is the Shostakovich. Excellent audio and fideo.

From the House of the Dead was Janacel's last opera. Translated and adapted by the composer from the 1862 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, it is a portrait of the dismal life inside a Siberian prison camp. Janacek finished the first two acts; the third was completed after his death by two of his students. They decided to give the opera a more optimistic ending. The premiere took place in Bno National Theater in 1930, and since that time it has been a respected if seldom performed opera. It did not have its Met premiere until 2009 when Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted eight performance. Other Janacek operas, particularly The Makropoulos Case, Janufa and Kat'a Kabanova had been performed more frequently. Death appears prominently in Janacek's operas, particularly in The House of the Dead. The opera has a large mostly male cast. A nobleman is placed into the prison, and he and many of the others relate their dismal situations. Floggings and torture are part of daily life in this prison camp. In the first act, prisoners capture a wounded eagle, which they torture. Not a pretty story, and the opera ends as the nobleman is about to be released. Don't look for arias and beautiful sounds, but you can indeed expect to hear an impressive score that conveys the deplorable story. Not for the faint-hearted, for sure. but terrific theater. This performance is from the Bavarian State Opera recorded in June 2018 conducted by the remarkable Simone Young. Stage direction is by Frank Castorf, costumes are by Adriana Braga Peretzki (her costume for the wounded eagle is spectacular). The cast is uniformly superb. This is a masterpiece operaphiles surely should investigate.

R.E.B. (March 2020)