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Category:    Home > Reviews > Classical Music > Instrumental > Vocal > Drama > Comedy > Opera > Motion Picture remake > Multi-Channel > Estrellita (BIS*/**)/Sebastian Fagerlund: Hostsonaten (aka Autumn Sonata/BIS*/**)/Puccini: Tosca/Thielemann (CMajor/Unitel*/***)/Stravinsky: Gimeno (Pentatone*/**all Hybrid Multi-Channel Super Audio C

Estrellita (BIS*/**)/Sebastian Fagerlund: Hostsonaten (aka Autumn Sonata/BIS*/**)/Puccini: Tosca/Thielemann (CMajor/Unitel*/***)/Stravinsky: Gimeno (Pentatone*/**all Hybrid Multi-Channel Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD)/Wagner: Gotterdammerung (***both Blu-ray/*all Naxos 2018)

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

Now for a new set of classical releases...

Estrellita offers Elena Urioste on violin and Tom Poster on piano covering 19 classic songs, starting with classical music classics by the likes of Liszt, Dvorak and Debussy and concluding with more modern showtunes and standards like My Man's Gone Now, Moon River (with Magnus Johnston on violin), When I Fall In Love and Over The Rainbow. In between are other names and it is ambitious in its mix of title choices, but I also found the music and performances more of a mix that was hit and miss than consistent.

No doubt they have the talent to play and it is an ambitious set, but the results were not as consistent as hoped for.

Sebastian Fagerlund: Hostsonaten fares a bit better in content and consistency turning Ingmar Bergman's classic film Autumn Sonata into an opera! Taking up the space of two Super Audio CD discs, Anne Sophie Von Otter leads the cast with the Finnish National Opera Chorus and Orchestra under the direction of John Storgards is a bold thing to do, especially since Bergman's films are internationally known for their long silent close-ups and much silence in general.

The results only stayed with me so much, but it is a nice alternative to his film and cinema in general, while it is bound to be a curio for those who love the film. The final running time is just over two hours!

Next, we have our only program with video content, a new version of Puccini's Tosca with the great Christian Thielemann conducting, so you know it is well done and captures the original intent of Puccini, but I was a little disappointed with the playback quality. For more on the opera and some other great versions we've covered over the years on Blu-ray, try these releases...

Daniel Bren version


Andrea Andermann version


Needless to say, Thielemann is as sharp and adept to grasping the works as those equally talented conductors and Classical Music greats, but I just wish they has started producing their works in 4K at the Staatskapelle Dresden in Salzberg. Michael Sturminger is the stage director and does a fine job there as well.

Our final SA-CD here is Stravinsky: Gimeno taking up two discs at an hour, 45 minutes roughly with The Rite Of Spring, Funeral Song, Game Of Cards, Concerto in D <<Basel>> and Agon by conductor Gustavo Gimeno with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg. Though long, it is well done, consistent and impressive, plays well and has the right amount of energy, thought might be too much for non-classical fans. Sadly, we have not had the chance to cover this work as much as you would think with all the classical titles we have discussed over the years, but it is definitely in line with what you would expect of a performance of the composers work and will likely enjoy the set if you pick it up.

Finally we have an all-audio Blu-ray version of Wagner: Gotterdammerung (aka Twilight Of The Gods) that we have covered in these versions with video on Blu-ray, starting with the Staatskapelle Weimar version


as part of larger Staatskapelle Weimar Ring set


and Daniel Barenboim version


Why an all-audio version? Why not. We are getting more audio-only programs on Blu-ray, even as Super Audio CD hangs in there and makes such programs more accessible for those who unfortunately do not have SA-CD capacity or even know what an SA-CD is. This is not bad, but very, very long at over 4 hours, from the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra with Eberhard Friedrich as principal chorus master and Japp van Zweden conducting and joined by both the the Barberg Symphony Orchestra and Latvian State Choir.

I found it to be an interesting alternative to the video versions we've seen without deviating form the original work. Fans will want to give it a try.

The 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Tosca has some motion blur and detail issues we often get from the older HD format, but color is not bad and it is the only release on the list with video (menus do not count) and will do, though some might prefer the playback quality of one of the other Tosca releases. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless mix is also decent, but inconsistent in its soundfield a bit and has nothing to do with no .1 LFE channel.

The audio-only Wagner Blu-ray fares a bit better with a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that is richer and more soundfield consistent, though some might think it might be very, very slightly prone to having a bit of a hard edge. I thought that might be the case a tiny bit, but not much. Both Blu-rays also offer PCM 2.0 Stereo for older systems that are not bad, but n o match for their multi-channel counterparts.

That leaves lossless DSD (Direct Stream Digital) 5.1 and DSD 2.0 Stereo mixes for the three SA-CDs, all sounding the best here in their 5.1 versions, making them the sonic champs on the list in that respect. The DSD 2.0 Stereo is fine for purists or non-multi-channel fans, but the 5.1 versions are very well realized throughout. They also have PCM 16/44.1 2.0 Stereo CD tracks for backwards comparability with all CD players, but know they are a comedown from the DSD Super Audio versions.

Extras in all five releases are multi-lingual booklets with some tech detail and notes, but nothing else beyond that in any of the releases.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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