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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Concert > Drama > Brahms Violin Concerto/Dvorak Sym. No 9/Abbado (EuroArts Blu-ray) + Elektra: Strauss/Gatti (Unitel Classica/ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 7, 8, & 9/Thielemann + Missa Solemnis (C Major/U

Brahms Violin Concerto/Dvorak Sym. No 9/Abbado (EuroArts Blu-ray) + Elektra: Strauss/Gatti (Unitel Classica/ArtHaus Blu-ray) + Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 7, 8, & 9/Thielemann + Missa Solemnis (C Major/Unitel Classica Blu-rays) + Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5/Barenboim (EuroArts DVD Set) + L’Orfeo/Monteverdi – Teatro alla Scala (Opus Arte Blu-ray + DVD Set) + Michel Legrand – Legrand Jazz (ArtHaus DVD) + Mozart/La Clemenza Di Tito/Harnoncourt (ArtHaus DVD Set) + World Orchestra For Peace/Mahler Sym. Nos. 4 & 5 (Unitel Classica/C Major DVD)


Picture: B- (Blu-rays) C+ (DVDs, save Barenboim & Mahler: C)     Sound: B (Blu-rays save Missa: B+)/B- DVDs     Extras: C (Mahler & L’Orfeo: C+/Thielemann: B)     Concerts/Music: B (Elektra & Legrand: B-)



As we continue to look at more great Blu-ray and DVD releases from Naxos and their family of distributed labels, you can see more series developing and other interesting performances you might want to catch.


Much of our Claudio Abbado coverage has been his series of Mahler performances, though he has taken on other composers and seems to know them all.  A new Blu-ray of Brahms Violin Concerto/Dvorak Sym. No 9 from EuroArts is a nice change of pace for the conductor and yet another excellent concert overall.  He also covers Beethoven (“Egmont” Overture) and Verdi (Overture to “Les Vepres siciliennes”), but the main programs are in the middle and are well delivered.


Beethoven is the composer we heard the most in this selection, including two Blu-rays with the great conductor Christian Thielemann conducts Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 7, 8 & 9 as well as Missa Solemnis, though the former is part of a series and we covered the 1, 2, & 3 on Blu-ray and DVD at this link:




That also includes all the Abbado/Mahler links.  Here is the link to our coverage of Christian Thielemann – Beethoven: Symphony Nos. 4, 5 & 6 on Blu-ray only:




That makes it all nine and the picture and sound are exactly the same as the previous Blu-rays.  Missa, a religious operatic plea for peace, also follows and is a great complement to the Symphony block.  A fine performance of a less-discussed and performed piece, this is a very impressive performance of the work and on Blu-ray, brings it to life in a way that seems long overdue.


As for the DVD set of Beethoven: Piano Concertos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 by Daniel Barenboim, we already covered this on Blu-ray at this link:





Teatro alla Scala presents Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo in the only title here we are covering in both the Blu-ray and DVD formats.  The classic tale of the title character (Georg Nigl) going into the underworld to save the soul of his wife Euridice (Roberta Invernizzi) who has been killed in the mortal world by a snake bite has all kinds of allusions and symbolism.  This version is terrific and was co-produced by the Italian TV network RAI.  The stage production itself is also top rate, especially on Blu-ray.


If you like films, you know the work of Michel Legrand, from the original Thomas Crown Affair to the filmed operetta Umbrellas Of Cherbourg to the James Bond film Never Say Never Again (see more elsewhere on this site), his work has always been a favorite of music and film fans.  Now comes Michel Legrand – Legrand Jazz, a 2009 show being only issued on DVD, but featuring some great instrumentals and vocal classics.  He is joined by Allison Moyet (once of the band Yaz) and they even duet at one point.  I thought the results could be mixed, but it is not bad.  You’ll know what you think when you hear Windmills Of Your Mind, What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life? and I Will Wait For You.


Another first is a piece by Mozart that we have not covered before.  La Clemenza Di Tito is now out in a DVD set from 2003 as performed by Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Wiener Philharmoniker and is an Opera Mozart finished just before he died and is considered by some to be unfinished, others to be uninterpretable.  However, it is a challenging piece that was popular in its time more than it is today.  It is a study about character conflict that can be abstract, but is nonetheless very interesting and yet another gem being brought to life in the video age.  This version should hold up for a long time to come.


Finally we get the World Orchestra For Peace delivering Mahler Sym. Nos. 4 & 5 in a DVD performance worthy of the Abbado/Mahler series noted above.  Though it has a broader feel than the Abbado versions, it is solid playing and Camilla Tilling is terrific with her soprano here.



The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition on all the Blu-rays are pretty good and on par with each other, having their share of motion blur, even when the color is good.  None stand out over the others, but all perform better than the DVDs this time around, which are all anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 presentations that can be soft and have weaker Video Black and less color range.  The Mahler and Barenboim releases are weaker still with odd motion blur and other visual issues that we have rarely seen in these kinds of releases.


All the Blu-rays have PCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mixes (though Thielemann is 5.0, it is the equal of all the others) but Missa is the overall sonic standout in this set with a great soundstage that will impress the biggest audiophiles and home theater fans.  All the DVDs have DTS 5.1 and PCM 2.0 Stereo, though Legrand only has PCM 2.0 Stereo and Tito even has a third soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1.  The great news is that none of these have bad sound or problematic sound, though I wish Legrand has some kind of 5.1 mix.


As for extras, all once again have booklets, Mahler has a behind the scenes piece called Solti’s Vision, Thielemann and L’Orfeo also have trailers for other Blu-ray releases and Thielemann continues its documentary look at Beethoven’s Symphonies in three parts on the works performed this time around making it the best all around title in the bunch in a really great series.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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