DVORAK: Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104. Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33.
Gustav Rivinius, cellist; Rudolf firkusny, pianist; Czech Philharmonic Orch/Václav Neumann (cello)/Jirí Belohlávek, cond.
VAI DVD VIDEO 4406 TT: 84 min.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral."
Gabriela Benacková, soprano; Anne Gjevang, alto; Günther Neumann, tenor; Artur Korn, bass; Prague Philharmonic Chorus; Czech Philharmonic Orch/Vaclav Neumann, cond.
VAI DVD VIDEO 4403 TT: 75 min.

VERDI: Requiem Mass
Fiorenza Cedolins, soprano; Luciana D'Intino, mezzo-soprano; Ramón Vargas, tenor; Rafal Siwek, bass; Arturo Toscanini Chorus and Orch/Zubin Mehta, cond.

The two Czech Philharmonic DVDs are worthy additions to the catalog. The Dvorak cello concerto was recorded during a concert in Spanish Hall in Prague Castle, September 8, 1991, the piano concerto at the Rodolfinum in Prague, May 14, 1992. Rivinius won the Gold Medal at the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow; he has made only a few recordings thus far, including Henze's Ode to the West Wind, and Wolf-Ferrari's seldom-heard cello concerto. He is in fine form in this performance of Dvorák's cello concerto with Václav Neumann's sensitive accompaniment (he recorded the concerto at least three times). Rudolf Firkusny is a perfect soloist for the piano concerto, and made at least two commercial recordings of it. He was at the end of his career at the time of this performance conducted by Belohlávek; he died two years later. This Beethoven Ninth was a very special concert given December 14, 1989 recorded in Smetana Hall in Prague presented in support of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. The Velvet Revolution refers to the bloodless overthrow of the communist regine through mass demonstrations; Beethoven's Ninth was chosen for the concert as a symbol of freedom and joy. Václav Havel attended and can be seen sharing the ovation at the conclusion of the performance; shortly after he became President of the country. Both of these DVDs are in stereo, and there are no program notes.

The best of intentions mark this new issue of Verdi's Requiem Mass recorded live at the Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, January 30, 2005. The concert was a benefit for victims of the tsunami tragedy December 26, 2004. All performers donated their services for the concert and recording. The four soloists are magnificent in every way, a remarkable lineup with one of the most talked-about sopranos of the day, Fiorenza Cedolins, matched by the sensational mezzo Luciana D'Intino. Ramón Vargas and Polish bass Rafal Siwek complete this remarkable quartet. Mehta's bland direction misses the terror and grandeus of Dies Irae. It would have helped if both the chorus and orchestra were larger. Sonics also disappoint—those bass drums are decidedly unimpressive.

R.E.B. (March 2007)