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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Concert > Nature > Foreign Culture > Third World > Education > Animation > Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (2011/Top Music/UQCD/M.A.T. 24K Gold CD)/Joaquin Achucarro/Simon Rattle (EuroArts)/Barenboim – Salzburg Concerts (Unitel Classica)/Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame/Queen Of Spades

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (2011/Top Music/UQCD/M.A.T. 24K Gold CD)/Joaquin Achucarro/Simon Rattle (EuroArts)/Barenboim – Salzburg Concerts (Unitel Classica)/Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame/Queen Of Spades (Opus Arte/Naxos Blu-rays)­/Verdi’s Falstaff/Weikl (ArtHaus)/Spirit Of Africa (Slideshow/ARC Music/NTSC & PAL formats/Naxos DVDs)/Scholastic Storybook Treasures Young Artists Collection DVD Box Set w/Zin! Zin! Zin! Violin


Picture: X/B-/B-/B-/C+/C+/C+     Sound: B-/B/B/B/B-/B-/C+     Extras: D/C+/B/C/C/C-/C-     Main Programs: B/B/B/B/B/B-/B



PLEASE NOTE: The Bartholdy Gold Compact Disc is only available from our friends at Top Music International and can be ordered at the link below.  The others are available at finer retailers everywhere.



Pianists Rudolf Serkin and Rena Kyriakou perform the works of the 20th Century classical composer Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy on a 2011 reissue album from Top Music, presented here in their UQCD/M.A.T. 24K Gold CD format.  Serkin delivers Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 25 in three parts, while Kyriakou offers Concerto for Piano & String Orchestra in A Minor, also in three parts.  These are fine performances of the under-heard composer who deserves rediscovery and I liked the older recordings.  From their original analog sources, they were remastered in 192kHz/32bit sound, then downconverted to the 16bit/44.1kHz of this Gold CD.  Though the resulting PCM 2.0 Stereo can sound good, but can have some slight harshness on the edges.  However, this is smooth otherwise.



Moving onto Blu-ray, we have the joining of pianist Joaquin Achucarro and conductor Sir Simon Rattle in a solid new Blu-ray release Joaquin Achucarro/Simon Rattle from EuroArts.  We have covered the following previous Blu-rays featuring Rattle at these links:


Yefim Bronfman/Simon Rattle: Tchaikovsky



Mussorgsky & Borodin/Rattle



This new concert performance from 2010 joins them and includes Manuel de Falla’s Nights In The Gardens Of Spain, moves onto Falla & Friends recital (including Debussy) and runs smoothly as it does non-stop.  Impressive, fans will not be disappointed.  Trailers and an informative booklet inside the Blu-ray case are the extras.



Daniel Barenboim is back with The Salzburg Concerts and it is yet another of the many fine concerts the master conductor has seen issued on Blu-ray.  You can read about more of them at this general link:




Beethoven, Schoenberg, Tchaikovsky and (listed as a bonus track) Mozart are played this time around and it is yet another live keeper.  At this point, I have to say how impressed the overall catalog of live classical music concerts on Blu-ray has grown in to a very formidable affair.  Wish this was more the case with other music genres.  An informative booklet inside the Blu-ray case is the only extra.



We have an Opera this time on Blu-ray too in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame/Queen Of Spades, the tale inspired by Pushkin of gambling, loving soldier Hermann makes for a fine opera as performed by the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona.  He wants to be with aristocrat Lisa, but will he give up her love for the secret of the three cards?  A grand production all around with top rate vocals, this is a great intro to this classic.  Extras include a Cast Gallery and an informative booklet inside the Blu-ray case.



Moving onto DVD, the Bernd Weikl/Uwe Sandner production of Verdi’s Falstaff is just as strong an opera, with the title character broke, failed and slowly self-destructing (a beer was named after him!) is very compelling, effective and I only wish this were a Blu-ray too because this is as colorful and grand a production as Pique Dame and deserves such treatment.  This is from the Pfalztheater Kaiserlautern and another gem.  An informative booklet inside the Blu-ray case is the only extra.




Though not necessarily classical, The Spirit Of Africa sets beautiful still images of the great continent to African music (12 selections in all) in a pleasant, interesting mix that tries to convey the country and its essence with a new approach.  This might not be for everyone, but will expose the viewer to the images and music artists they will not likely hear otherwise.  Home video fans will be additionally curious about the flipper DVD, which has one side in the U.S. NTSC format and the other in the U.K. PAL format, which are region free.  A thin booklet with very high quality print is the only extra.



Finally we have a box set of DVDs.  Scholastic Storybook Treasures Young Artists Collection happens to also be coming out and fits into this review just fine.  We have covered many Scholastic DVD releases, as this link will show:




This set offers shorts new to us including Zin! Zin! Zin! Violin with music by Marvin Hamlisch, a single that also offers The Star Spangled Banner suing by Aretha Franklin, Musical Max narrated by Mary Beth Hurt, Keeping House, Patrick and Apt. 3.  The Dot single has Thora Birch narrating this tale about the power of drawing, Bobby McFerrin narrates Art, Chester Gregory narrates Ish, Katherine Kellgren narrates Norman the Doorman and Zach Braff (Chicken Little) narrates Wallace’s Lists.  The Shrinking Violet single included the title short narrated by Calista Flockhart, Giraffes Can’t Dance narrated by Billy Dee Williams, Three Cheers For Catherine The Great! narrated by Ekaterina Gordeeva and Amazing Grace narrated by Alfre Woodard.  This is a nice collection for children that is as child-friendly as you will see on the subject of creativity and we need to see more and from more sources.  Art illustrator Patrick McDonnell is interviewed in the one extra across the set.


To my surprise, the Barenboim Blu-ray is actually listed as a 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer, but it is no better than the 1080i 1.78 X 1 on the other Blu-rays and all look good with good color and some good shots.  However, all of them have some motion blur and some other minor flaws throughout.  Falstaff is here in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 presentation and it is weaker than the Blu-rays, even though it has basically the same flaws.  Africa says it is also an anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 DVD, but the images on either side look 1.33 X 1 to me.  Like Falstaff and the Scholastic DVDs, which are also 1.33 X 1, you have some aliasing errors and color limits, but what you would pretty much expect from the older DVD format.


All three Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and lesser but still viable PCM 2.0 Stereo mixes.  In all cases, the DTS is rich, full and has a good soundfield throughout, which is not always the case with these releases, but is here.  Falstaff and Africa have PCM 2.0 Stereo only, which is good, but not great, and the Scholastic DVDs have lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and even Mono, which is serviceable, but not as good as the other releases here.



To find out more about ordering the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy CD, start with this link, then find the title, then go to the HOW TO ORDER tab on the left-hand side column:





The direct order link is:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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