Les Preludes 1er Livre/Barenboim
von Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 9/Henri-Georges Clouzot
(1966, 1977/Unitel Classica/EuroArts)/La
Vs. Verdi: A Documentary In Six Parts
(2013 - 2014/Unitel Classica/ArtHaus/Naxos Blu-rays)
B-/B-/B-/C+/B-/B- Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+/B+/B- Extras:
C/C/C/C+/B-/C Main Programs: C+/C+/C+/B/B/B
are the latest Classical Blu-ray releases for your consideration...
Willibald Gluck's Alceste
has been issued in a new version from 2014 with Conductor Ivor Bolton
and the Teatro Real in Madrid in a long 150 minutes that has its
moments, but drags a bit despite some fine singing and staging. This
is only the second time we have ever covered a Gluck work, having
(aka Iphigenie en
in a very engaging Blu-ray release a good bit ago at this link:
version of the tale of Euripides is ambitiously presented as well,
the first time we remarkably ever came across any
interpretation of that story, but does not quite justify its length.
Still, I kept watching hoping it might pick up, but it at least holds
steady in what they are trying to do.
Barenboim is back yet again, this time with the documentary Debussy:
Les Preludes 1er Livre
(2000) and hour-long look at the work of Claude Debussy by one of the
greatest conductors of all time. I wish it were longer, but this is
not bad and I mostly thought what he had to say made sense, explained
very clearly and with a true love of the composer. Oddly, the only
work we have covered of Debussy is Pelleas
et Melisande and the same
one from Conductor Frank Welser-Most, including the latest edition at
yet another work by an artist we have covered before, Igor
Stravinsky. This time we have Choreographer James Kudelka delivering
a solid version of the ballet The
Firebird (2003) of
Russian Folk Tales with Conductor Valery Gergiev and dancers Great
Hodgkinson, Alexandar Antonijevic, Rebekah Rimsay and Rex Harrington.
It only lasts an hour, but is just fine for what it is and I hope to
see more versions to compare eventually.
of the most pleasant surprises is Herbert
von Karajan: Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 9,
which includes the great conductor going the two classic pieces in
1966 and 1977 respectively, which he does as well as anyone could.
The big twist here is that the 1966 concert (running a half-hour) is
directed by the legendary Henri-Georges Clouzot,
whose classic feature films includes the original Diabolique
and Wages Of Fear
(remade by William Friedkin as Sorcerer)
picking exceptional shots and angles to capture the orchestra
performance on solid black and white film. It contrasts amusingly to
the latter color videotaped show which is good, but lacks the form of
the Clouzot film.
they had made several films together including what is on this
Blu-ray for more concert and interviews, including Karajan working
with the great violinist
make a terrific pair of important classical film Blu-rays.
is Gaetano Donizetti's La
(2014), the most outright spectacular release here featuring the
full-blown opera at 184 minutes with a great cast Christian Lacroux
costumes, conducted by Antonello Allemundi and directed
by Vincent Boussard, deals with multi-national war of the past with a
multi-national cast and scope that has the kind of impact you would
expect for such an ambitious production where the composer melded
several opera styles, et al. The result just justifies its length
and is worth discovering this underseen work.
more Donizetti, try these links...
we have the TV mini-series Wagner
Vs. Verdi: A Documentary In Six Parts
(2013 - 2014) looking at the two composers, how they helped define
European music for the 20th
Century and how they became favorites of two murderous dictators,
Hitler and Mussolini. Two episodes take on each giant separately
after the first episode, then brings the history, effect, influence
and results together throughout. Some may find this a bit long, but
I thought it was necessary, especially due the the infamy of the two
legends, the negative effects they had and just how significant they
have been, are and will be, for better and worse.
episode has a different director, yet they flow together nicely and
are definitely worth your time.
1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on most of the
Blu-rays have motion blur and show the age of their tapings, plus in
the case of documentaries, age of their vintage footage, save Karajan
which has its filmed and analog videotaped 1.33 X 1 footage upscaled
for 1080i (why were the 35mm black and white Clouzot films not
restored and transferred in and for HD?) and the
1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Favorite,
barely the best presentation here with slightly less blur and other
issues than the rest of these releases.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Favorite
is well mixed, recorded and presented, easily making it the sonic
champion with superior soundfield and fidelity throughout, but also
including a lesser PCM 2.0 Stereo track. Alceste
only include PCM 2.0 Stereo tracks, but tie for second place as the
sonic best on the list, but have some serious limits, though the rest
of the Blu-rays are also only stuck with that uncompressed
two-channel codec and they even sound poorer, really showing their
could use some work in particular, actually being PCM 2.0 Mono.
in tall six cases include the usual multi-lingual and
partly-illustrated booklets on their respective releases, with
having an 18 minutes-long concert excerpt, but it I in the analog PAL
video format and will not play on most U.S. Blu-ray players. Karajan
adds the already noted Clouzot interview with the orchestra piece
where he talks to a young composer about playing Beethoven and how to
do it well and he really
knows what he is talking about. Favorite adds 5 frames as a Cast
Gallery and an Interviews with the Cast & Crew clip and most of
the discs have trailers
releases from the respective labels.