Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Ballet > Concert > French Film > Comedy > Literature > Soundtrack Music > Wester > Michael Nyman Collections (DVD/CD set) + Herbert Von Karajan/Henri-Georges Clouzot Films (C Major) + Mahler Symp. No. 4/Abbado (EuroArts) + Jurowski/Grimaud – Strauss/Ravel (Ideale Audience) + Three B

Michael Nyman Collections (DVD/CD set) + Herbert Von Karajan/Henri-Georges Clouzot Films (C Major) + Mahler Symp. No. 4/Abbado (EuroArts) + Jurowski/Grimaud – Strauss/Ravel (Ideale Audience) + Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan: Joplin/Elias/Shostakovich + Puccini’s La Fanciulla Del West/Rizzi + Tchaikovsky’s Cherevichki/The Tsarina’s Slippers/Royal Opera (Opus Arte) + Mark Adamo/Little Women (Naxos Blu-rays)


Picture: C+/B/B-/B-/B/B-/B/B-     Sound: B (Nyman DVD:C+/CD: B-; Karajan: B-)     Extras: B-/B-/C+/C+/C/C+/B-/C     Main Programs: C+ & B-/B/B/B/B/B/B/B-



This wave of Naxos titles is one of the most interesting with two having stronger connections than usual to motion pictures.  First is composer Michael Nyman with his DVD/CD set Michael Nyman Collections.  The clever composer whose work includes a longtime collaboration with Peter Greenaway (see the Greenaway DVD import set and BFI U.K. Blu-ray of A Zed & Two Noughts elsewhere on this site) is a prolific effort in the tradition of Hitchcock/Herrmann or De Palma/Donaggio.  Included with the set is a textless hardcover mini-booklet called Cine Opera that is loaded with interesting, abstract monochrome stills.


50,000 Photos Can’t Be Wrong (the title a send-up of a famous Elvis Presley album) is more of the same, but set to his music and here in nine sections.  That leaves the CD Portrait Of A Label, a 16-track affair that even features vocals on some tracks, several of which are from Greenaway films.  It is a personal release from the composer, who is one of the better, more important musicians working in film today.


Now the Blu-rays.  The great conductor Herbert Von Karajan and equally great, key violinist Yehudi Menuhin were recorded performing together in an exceptional performance from 1966 that was not only issued as an album, but shot on film.  This record has survived and very well.  Herbert Von Karajan In Rehearsal & Performance is roughly the title, as we see the many give us his interpretations of Mozart and Dvorak.  The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital black and white High Definition image on the Karajan Blu-ray is the oldest material here and one of the oldest Naxos has veer sent us, yet it looks as good and better than just about all the HD shoots we have covered from them on Blu-ray over the years with this footage shot in 35mm for French Television by the legendary director Henri-Georges Clouzot (Les Diabolique, Wages Of Fear) who was a good friend and collaborator.  The main concerts are here in PCM 2.0 Stereo and extras documentary programs remain in mono, again in PCM 2.0 and they are all compelling to see.


Clouzot and Karajan made five films together before they could not work together because their ideas started to drift apart.  The Mozart film from 1965 is the only surviving performance of Karajan and Menuhin performing.  One of Schumann’s Fourth Symphony from 1965, one of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in 1966 and one of Verdi’s Requiem from 1967 are not here.  However, we also get two bonus films by Clouzot: Karajan in conversation with Menuhin on Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 and Karajan in conversation with Professor Joachim Kaiser on Dvorak’s Symphony No.5 from 1966.  This is a great Blu-ray and so much filmed classical material is in the vaults waiting to be restored and released.  I hope this disc causes a new cycle to occur.


Moving to the more recently recorded programs, they are a very impressive batch of releases.  They include the latest in the Claudio Abbado performances of Mahler and his Symphonies.  Symphony No. 4 follows the also strong release so the following Mahler performance on Blu-ray:


No. 1



No. 2 + 6



No. 5




He is joined by Magdalena Kozena this time and also does Mahler’s Ruckert-Liederin this series that is one of the best we are likely to ever encounter from Abbado and on Mahler.


Composer Vladimir Jurowski with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe delivers some solid performances of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Opus 60, was well as Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G, Opus 83 with ace pianist Helene Grimaud joining him throughout in this new Strauss/Ravel concert Blu-ray that is every bit as well shot and recorded as the Mahler/Abbado series.  It would be nice to see this become a series too, but we’ll see.  Very impressive and the kind of Blu-ray that can spark interest in the arts.



What could have been scattered turns out to be another great Blu-ray in Three Ballets by Kenneth MacMillan, which is really three strong, separate programs from the Royal Ballet that all work exceedingly well.  Loaded with energy and talent, the dancers deliver Scott Joplin’s Elite Syncopations (1974), Brian Elias’ Judas Tree (1992) and Dmitry Shostakovich’s Concerto (1966).  The money is also in this set of productions and the color makes it one of the best classical Blu-ray demos to date.


Carlo Rizzi’s version of Puccini’s La Fanciulla Del West arrives at an interesting time on Blu-ray when so many action features badly emulating Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns keep turning up, only to be rightly forgotten.  This is not trying to do that, yet its themes of Wall Street big money and corruption updated here make a great flipside to Leone’s A Fistful Of Dynamite (aka Duck, You Sucker aka Once Upon A Time… Revolution) which most experts consider his greatest film and it was his last Spaghetti Western.  The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (directed on stage by Nikolaus Lehnhoff) delivers a distinct work that can be as colorful as it can be dark.  Impressive and maybe those trying to emulate those Leone classics ought to make this required viewing.


One of the lesser-seen fantasy pieces of Gogol’s tale of Satan up to no good on Christmas Eve, Tchaikovsky’s Cherevichki - The Tsarina’s Slippers is from 1887 and deserves to been performed more often.  This Royal Opera House performance is top notch, it was Tchaikovsky’s favorite opera and rightly so.  It is like watching a lost film or watching one that was put away for dumb reasons for too long.  Mikhail Mokrov’s sets are terrific, Francesca Zambello produced and Alexander Polianichko conducts a cast hat has exceptional energy, comic timing and chemistry.  It would be nice if this performance caused a revival of the work, because it is that good and the opera deserves it.


Finally, still suffering from Jane Austen overkill, Mark Adamo’s operatic version of Little Women is a very welcome change of pace, treating the material as more than anti-feminist fluff as Hollywood has been doing so for too many years now.  Split into two acts, it seems to bring out an honest discourse of Miss Austen’s classic long missing and forgotten by the recent wave of lame, tired, homogenized, flat, dull film versions.  Patrick Summers conducts the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, Peter Webster did the stage directing, Brian Large directed the HD shots and the cast out acts big name Hollywood stars as well as being exceptionally gifted singers.  Bravo everyone!



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 on all the stage Opera/Ballet Blu-rays do have their moments of motion blur, but the color helps them still look good, though only the Tchaikovsky and MacMillian Blus overcome this to the best extent.  They all also feature DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mixes (5.0 on West) that are all good, surprisingly strong overall and offer live soundfields that all sound realistic and warm throughout.  PCM 2.0 Stereo is also included as an option for those viewing them without the benefit of a home theater system.


Extras for all the Blu-rays include informative booklets and some have trailers for other Blu-rays, while MacMillian adds an introduction by Deborah MacMillan, West & Slippers add Cast Galleries, West also offers Backstage Insights and Slippers also has its own Introduction, Cast & Characters section and Staging Gogol’s World featurette.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com