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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Opera > Ballet > Concert > Le Coq d’Or (aka The Golden Cockerel/Rimsky-Korsakov/ArtHaus/Chatelet)/Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress (Glyndebourne/Opus Arte)/Glazunov’s Raymonda (ArtHaus/Teatro Alla Scala/Rai)/Rudolf Buchbinder/Wi

Le Coq d’Or (aka The Golden Cockerel/Rimsky-Korsakov/ArtHaus/Chatelet)/Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress (Glyndebourne/Opus Arte)/Glazunov’s Raymonda (ArtHaus/Teatro Alla Scala/Rai)/Rudolf Buchbinder/Wiener Philharmoniker/The Beethoven Piano Concertos (Unitel Classica/C Major/Naxos Blu-rays)


Picture: B-/B/C+/B-     Sound: B/B+/B/B     Extras: C/B-/C/B     Concerts: B/B+/B/B



Of the recent releases of Classical Music Blu-rays by Naxos-affiliated labels, here are four of the recent best.



Le Coq d’Or is an underseen, underperformed Rimsky-Korsakov work that might remind some of Madama Butterfly with its elaborate Asian costuming, stage design and overall look, but there is much more to this and it is a fantasy piece to some extent as well.  An opera based on Pushkin’s “The House Of The Weathercock”, Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre de Paris and Chorus of the Mariinsky theater, St. Petersburg as an Astrologer (Barry Banks) tells of the future and it involves the use of the title animal (played by a human, Yuri Maria Saenz, in costume) to protect a king in time of war.  The coast is clear if it is silent, and not if it makes noise.


The King (Albert Schagidullin) believes this and it sets all kinds of actions in motion, sometimes to unreal extents, but that is part of the fun of watching this all unfold.  The cast is fine, Isao Takashima’s stage direction works nicely and the result is top rate.  If you have never seen this opera before, this is a great introduction to it.  The only extra is a nicely illustrated booklet on the opera with informative text in several languages.



Even more impressive and my favorite of the four here is as new version of Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress that has costumes and set design all based on the art design of the very popular artist David Hockney.  John Cox directs and Vladimir Jurowski conducts this take of the title character Tom Rakewell (Topi Lehtipuu) trying to get through life without working, but that is not going to last long.  But instead of doom, he suddenly finds out that he has inherited a fortune and this sets him on a journey filled with humor, some surprises and its share of irony.


I really liked this ambitious production and though it is a production that could have gone with any number of designs, using Hockney’s work as a stepping-off point enhances its intents and sense of surrealism as the tale (which starts to veer into fantasy genre territory somewhat) more grounded than you might think.  Definitely worth your time and going out of your way for, extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the opera with informative text in several languages, while the Blu-ray adds a Cast Gallery and two featurettes: Behind The Rake’s Progress and an introduction to the opera.



Aleksandr Glazunov’s Raymonda is a ballet originally choreographed back in 1898 by Michail Petipa about the title countess (Olesta Novikova) near her birthday and maybe an arranged marriage (or the like) with a Crusader named Jean de Brienne (Friedemann Vogel), but there will be competition and just what is the story of the mysterious White Lady statue that “protects” them on the lawn in front of the house?


The Italian TV network Rai produced this version with the Teatro Alla Scala and the result is a solid presentation of a lesser-known work in its full glory with a solid cast and fine production values all around.  Michail Jurowsky conducts the music, Sergej Vikharev staged it and the original choreography and even the costumes (originally by Ivan Vsevolozski) are from the 1989 designs.  The only extra is a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text,



Finally we have Rudolf Buchbinder and The Wiener Philharmoniker: The Beethoven Piano Concertos, which is simply a concert of all five of those classic pieces in a strong, smooth, rich 186 minutes that does a nice job on pieces you are familiar with, whether a fan or you happen to have heard some of them and not known what they are.  Buchbinder shows his love of the pieces and as in the best kind of these releases, conductor and orchestra meld well together.  Also a great way to be introduced to these classics, it never has poor periods and a consistent energy throughout which is not easy for any concert of any length.


Shot at the Goldener Seal des Geseltschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, a fine venue, it is impressive all around for this type of release and is holds up well against most of its kind to date that we have seen.  Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet with text and technical information in several languages (as usual), while the Blu-ray itself adds a conversational featurette called Buchbinder’s Beethoven where he is joined by Joachim Kaiser to talk about the giant’s music and trailers for other Blu-rays from Unitel Classica.




The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image across the four Blu-rays show the range of what we usually get in any concerts recorded in this form of HD.  Coq and Wiener are good and have some minor detail and some slight blur issues, per the technologies usual limits, but Raymonda is softer, has more motion blur and seven some image break-up in a few places, even when color is not bad.  That leaves Progress as one of the rare exceptions, handling Video White exceptionally well, holding the lines of Hockney’s art design and is one of the most stable types of this shooting I have seen to date.  Detail and depth are better than usual and there are even a few HD demo shots, though this is for HD shot material and not the better film moments on now hundreds of great Blu-rays.


All four discs have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless mixes with solid recordings and fine soundfields throughout in all cases that are all 5.1 save the 5.0 on Wiener, but Progress is even a little more dynamic than the rest with a wider-ranging reach and has a clarity that is more of audiophile caliber than even I expected.  All also have PCM 2.0 Stereo tracks as alternative tracks for older systems and purists who do not like multi-channel sound.  They are all good, but no match for the DTS-MA in any case.


-   Nicholas Sheffo


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