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
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-
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
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.
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.
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. 2 + 6
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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