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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Ballet > Concert > Solos > Mussorgsky & Borodin – Berlin Philharmoniker/Rattle (EuroArts Blu-ray) + Verdi – Simon Boccanegra/Mariotti (ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Art Of Chopin (Ideale Audience DVD) + Batons, Bows & Bruises (History Of

Mussorgsky & Borodin – Berlin Philharmoniker/Rattle (EuroArts Blu-ray) + Verdi – Simon Boccanegra/Mariotti (ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Art Of Chopin (Ideale Audience DVD) + Batons, Bows & Bruises (History Of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra DVD/CD Set) + Rossi – Cleopatra (Naxos DVD) + Karita Mattila – Helsinki Recital (Ondine DVD/CD Set) + King Roger (C Major/Unitel DVD) + Mozart – Cosi fan tutte & Don Giovanni (Unitel DVD Sets) + Schumann – Op. 39 (SWR DVD/CD)


Picture: B/B- (Blu-rays)/C+ (DVDs, save Schumann, C)     Sound: B (Mattila, Baton CD:  B-/Baton DVD, Schumann: C+)     Extras: C (Chopin, Cleopatra, Mattila, Schumann: C-)     Main Programs: B (Batons, Cleopatra, Mattila, Schumann: C-)



With more DVD product than usual for the month of August 2010, Naxos has issued some key classic documentary material that should be on the market and they continue to support all formats as the following will show:


Mussorgsky & Borodin – Berlin Philharmoniker/Rattle (EuroArts Blu-ray) is the best-looking of all the releases since the 1080i HD camera does not have to move much, showing conductor Sir Simon Rattle and his orchestra doing the entire program on camera with no stage performers to sing or dance to an opera or ballet.  Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition and Borodin’s Prince Igor and Symphony No. 2 in B minor are featured and this plays well since he is a superior conductor.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix is fine and has an impressive soundfield, plus a fine booklet on the show is included inside the Blu-ray case.  You can read more about the Rattle Blu-ray where he performs classics by Stravinsky, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky at this link:





Verdi – Simon Boccanegra/Mariotti (ArtHaus Blu-ray) is the first time we have covered the lesser-heard/seen opera, but I was pleasantly surprised at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna performers and locale, a place that displays the arts well.  Though we get some softness and motion blur in the 1080i HD picture, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 sound is more impressive and well recorded as conductor Michele Mariotti and stage director George Gallione back a fine cast including Roberto Frontali as the title character.  A booklet is also included.



Art Of Chopin (Ideale Audience DVD Set) is an exceptional documentary about the composer, his life and influence, directed by Gerald Caillat, showing how distinct his work is among the masters through interviews, history and examination of the work that runs an hour and could have been even longer.  Still, it is thorough and comes with a 90 minutes bonus concert from 2009 conducted by Garrick Ohlsson with the Warsaw Philharmonic and Antoni Wit.  Both programs are in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video, though the picture on both is a little weak.  The documentary is PCM 2.0 Stereo, while the concert is DTS 5.1 (with slightly lesser Dolby Digital 5.1) and comes with an informative booklet.



Batons, Bows & Bruises gives us the History Of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a DVD/CD set designed to be a crash course on one of the most important orchestras around.  We learn about how Sir Thomas Beecham made it all possible and how it had to change and adapt when it finally lost its giant of a leader.  The 1.33 X 1 picture has aliasing errors and is soft, but features loads of vintage film and video footage worth seeing.  The bonus CD included to hear the orchestra is going to sound better than the Dolby Digital 2.0 sound on the DVD, but not as much as expected since the recordings included can show their age and sonic limits.  However, this is a great story, very historical and the booklet included in the foldout DigiPak case is well written.



Rossi – Cleopatra (Naxos DVD) has Dimitra Theodossiou in the title role of the Lauro Rossi opera that is not seen or heard as much as you would think considering the continued popularity of the legend that the woman was and the fascination still around about her.  David Crescenzi conducts the Orchestra Filarmonica Mrachigiana in Marcerata, Italy and we get a fine performance with a great cast.  I was not overwhelmed, but it may be the material and/or some of the presentation, so I hope to revisit the piece in another release.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video is weaker than expected with noise, motion blur and detail issues, though a Blu-ray should play better, while the concert is DTS 5.1 at best and sounds fine, even over the Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  A booklet is included.



Karita Mattila – Helsinki Recital is from Ondine and we have the DVD/CD set, though note a Super Audio CD (SA-CD) has also been issued that likely has the best sound of all.  A superior soprano, Miss Mattila shows her power and command of phrasing and range on classic works by the likes of Duparc, Saariaho, Rachmaninov, Dvorak, Young and Finnishtrad in this extensive program that shows what an actual diva is all about.  No posers allowed.  Taped at the Finnish National Opera in 2006, it is a substantial showcase that is much more hit than miss.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video is very weak however and is the biggest disappointment of the titles here, with watered down image, motion blur, aliasing errors and other flaws that should not be here.  The Dolby Digital 5.0 is on par with the PCM 2.0 Stereo on the DVD, while the PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo CD is a little better sonically, but audiophiles should go SA-CD if they can or wait for a Blu-ray.



King Roger is Karol Szymanowski’s 1926 opera issued in this Felix Breisach-directed production on C Major/Unitel Classica DVD, though please note a Blu-ray is also available.  Sir Mark Elder conducts the Wiener Symphoniker in this very well produced, energetic, impressive performance that is one of the best of the titles here.  Scott Hendricks is the lead and I liked the use of lighting and especially color, while the dancers and singers were great.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video from what is likely a 1080i shoot is a little weak with motion blur and softness, but I bet the Blu-ray would look better.  The DTS 5.1 mix is excellent and better than the decent PCM 2.0 Stereo mix, both form the well-recorded master and an informative booklet is also included.  I hope to see an alternate performance down the line to compare.



Mozart – Cosi fan tutte & Don Giovanni are here as separate Unitel Classica and EuroArts DVD sets (with the ORF) from Wiener Philharmoniker performances staged by Claus Guth and directed for video by Brian Large.  Though we have covered both classics in Blu-ray editions by other artists, these are just as good as and even better than past productions with an uncanny sense of effectiveness that both updates the works for modern times, yet keeps all the classical sense and feel intact, which is not easy to do.  Instead of mere time transplants, the performances have the flow that brings life to the original work in ways that make you forget you are watching something created a long time ago.  The result is two shows that may be long, but are constantly involving and ones to recommend as among the best Mozart on video to date.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 video may both be a little soft and weak with motion blur, some noise and some detail issues, but I would love to see Blu-ray editions, which both deserve.  The DTS 5.0 is strong on both releases and even more so than the Dolby Digital 5.0 and PCM 2.0 Stereo also included.  Both have bonus booklets inside their cases.



Robert Schumann – Op. 39 from SWR and Hanssler Classic is a DVD/CD set that has baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hartmut Hool (on Klavier) in another musician-in-camera show that is very good and the oldest of the programs here.  It is also an all German-language DVD/VD release that unless you know your classics, you may have trouble navigating.  However, the performance is solid enough to suffer though, but the 1.33 X 1 video is the weakest here and of almost all the Naxos material we have seen over the years, despite the likelihood this is a PAL taping, with aliasing errors, digititis, staircasing and other issues that can make watching this, very, very trying.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is also basic, though more in line of what you would expect from that format and codec with limited separation and its usual compression limits.  Fortunately, the CD included has solid PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo and features works by Schumann, Liszt and Ullmann by the same duo and is impressive for the old format.  An informative booklet is included.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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