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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rockumentary > Pop > Oldies > Tour > Concert > Classical > Opera > Stage > Holocaust > The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour (1976/Eagle DVD)/Beethoven Symphonies 1 – 9/Abbado Blu-ray Box Set (EuroArts)/Bellini: Beatrice di Tenda/Pirolli (Dynamic)/Cunning Little Vixen/Jurowski (Opus Arte

The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour (1976/Eagle DVD)/Beethoven Symphonies 1 – 9/Abbado Blu-ray Box Set (EuroArts)/Bellini: Beatrice di Tenda/Pirolli (Dynamic)/Cunning Little Vixen/Jurowski (Opus Arte)/The Firebird/Rite Of Spring/Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun, Stravinsky/Debussy, Jarvi (Electric)/Peter Grimes/Britten/Ticciati (Opus Arte/Naxos Blu-rays)/Wagner & Me (2010/Stephen Fry/First Run DVD)


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



Now for some new music releases that are in the Classical Music realm…



Outside of the classic hit Good Vibrations, it is a cheat to include The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour Rockumentary from 1976, but no doubt Brian Wilson was influenced by such music and the vocal likes of The Lettermen.  Lorne Michael produced this special in the early days of his Saturday Night Live success and some of its cast members even helped, but as issued by Eagle, it is a sad, short, mixed look at the band when they decided to become an oldies nostalgia band suddenly emphasizing Americana, theirs and otherwise.


At this point, they were making big money touring though no radio station would play any of their new songs as they had signed with Warner Bros. after years at Capitol Records, save the hit Wishing You Were Here with Chicago where they were not even really credited.


Brain Wilson was along for the ride, but he was not in the best of health, so we get many moments of him being interviewed in bed!  It is sad to see how badly he was doing, especially since no one totally knew just how bad and the nature of how bad he was health-wise, but the money was hard to resist.


Each song performed is followed by an interview and/or non-music moment for the short 50 minutes here as the band performs hits like the “title” song, California Girls, I Get Around, Surfin USA and Fun, Fun, Fun.  Unfortunately, performances can sound muddied and even a bit off, they are not with the energetic zing of the original hits and so, the band plays the songs as older men and that does not always work.  That makes this a time capsule of the band at what looked like might be their last hurrah.


It wasn’t and they continued.  Brian Wilson survived though Dennis Wilson shockingly did not and now you can see what really happened in what was a middle-point for their careers.  For more on the band, try this amazing documentary Brian Wilson – Songwriter: 1962 – 1969, at this link:





Most impressive this time out is Beethoven Symphonies 1 – 9, a new four-Blu-ray box set featuring conductor Claudio Abbado covering every classic thoroughly, at length and as well as any conductor around can.  As you know, we are fans of Abbado and his past releases on Blu-ray have been some of the best outright Classical concerts we have seen in the format, which you can read more about from this growing selection list:




These Beethoven programs are mostly recorded in Rome at The Academia Nationale, though the Ninth was taped at Philharmonie in Berlin, this is a strong, fine set that is as good as any representation of these classics out there in any format making it also one of the most deluxe Classical Blu-ray boxes on the market.  It is worth every penny and fans will want to catch up with it, but it is also a great intro (or re-introduction) to the works and I was very pleasantly content with the results.



Beatrice di Tenda by Vincenzo Bellini is only the second work by the composer we have covered following Norma, which we came across a few years ago at this link:




This 1833 penned-work, conducted here by Antonio Pirolli, is even less-known and seen, so having it on Blu-ray is a big plus in this work about power, the public, disposability, love and politics, so it would be nice if this helped lead to its rediscovery and repopularity, but it makes for a solid Blu-ray.



Now we get to Leos Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen in this new release version conducted by Vladimir Jurowski.  Dennis Russel Davies conducted the first Blu-ray we covered at this link:




This new version from Opus Arte is its pier, though the image quality is a tad shy of the competing release.  Taped at Glydenbourne, it sure sounds as good and is also very much worth the time of anyone interested or wanting to see a performance of the work they can rely on.



Paavo Jarvi conducts three classic in this 74-minutes long release of The Firebird and Rite Of Spring by Stravinsky and Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun by Debussy that are no bad, though not always the epitome of the works as I have heard them over the years.  Some will prefer his more thoughtful approach and the orchestra is in fine form, but this one did not always deliver and with the room on the disc, maybe another classic should have been included.


Ironically, when we covered Jarvi doing a Schumann Blu-ray, it also included Franz Welser-Most conducting Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande, which you can read all about at this link:





Our last opera is the all English-language Peter Grimes composed by Benjamin Britten and conducted by Robin Ticciati in what is another pleasant surprise and a fine work rendered and realized throughout.  The title character is accused of a murder he did not commit and personalities immediately get in the way of truth throughout.  Set in the 1980s, it has much to say and the cast is exceptionally good throughout.


Like other operas here, the actual stage production is well done and produced, plus it is well directed by Richard Jones with the Teatro Alla Scala and Italy’s Rai TV Network co-produced.  John Graham-Hall is great in the title role and this is as highly recommended as any Opera we have seen lately.



Finally we have Stephen Fry exploring his love of a particular classical composer in Patrick McGrady’s Wagner & Me (2010) where he gets into detail about how much he loves his music, but has major issues with how it becomes part of The Holocaust and Hitler’s drive for power, made even more problematic still because of his Judaism.

For a man known for comedy, and we do get some here, it is a sometimes different 89 minutes and we see Fry in not the best of shape and spirits all the time, now rendered ironic by the fact that in June 2013, Fry (who starts drinking more than his share of alcohol here) admitted he tried to take his life.  That adds a sadly painful aspect to what was already a struggle going on here, but I am glad Fry is not lost and we all hope he finds the help he needs to get well again.  I have a feeling this exploration might have been more painful for him than even I thought.


For more on Fry, you can see him in action with his comedy partner Hugh Laurie at this link:





The 1.33 X 1 image on Beach comes totally from 16mm film, but it is a little color faded and looks like an older video master with softness and motion blur beyond what a 16mm shoot should ever look like.  The source material needs some work.  The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image on all five Blu-rays have some motion blur and even staircasing in moist parts, but Grimes is more stable, cleaner, smoother and moiré solid than any other release on the list.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Wagner has blur and softness, but not as much as the Blus, yet the digitally-shot piece looks sadly better than the Beach DVD.



The DTS 5.1 mix on Beach is a little better than the weak Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option with talking often sounding much better than expected and even warmer than the music, while the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the five Blu-rays are even a bit warmer and richer and more, with Grimes the sonic champ so well recorded.  Of the four Beethoven discs, the disc with Symphonies No. 2 & 5 is a little harsher on the edges than the rest which are more impressive and sonically superior enough.  Symphony No. 6 was the best of all.  All Blu-rays also have a PCM 2.0 Stereo option that is fine, but no match for the DTS-MA.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Wagner is the weakest here, not because it is not a big music show (we get plenty of music), but because talking, narration and discussion often get mixed into the music in ways that make in inaudible no matter how you reset your system.



Extras in all five Blu-ray cases include the usual nicely illustrated booklet on the music including informative text, but neither DVD does, even a paper pullout.  The DVDs have no extras, while the Blu-rays all offer trailers on their discs, Vixen adds a Cast Gallery and Creating… featurette, Grimes adds a Cast Gallery and interviews featurette and Beethoven has a Making Of featurette and all 9 shows offer the option of watching Abbado conduct through the rarely used multi-angle function.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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