Enrico di Borgogna/Paoli
Piano & Cello Works.../Iniguez
(2019/Alba/Hybrid Super Audio CD/SACD/SA-CD w/CD layer)/Norwegian
National Ballet Ibsen: Ghosts
and Hedda Gabler
Die Zauberflote/Magic Flute/Brandauer/UNESCO
Beethoven Symphony No. 9 for Peace
(both 2018/Unitel/*all Blu-ray/all Naxos)
B-/B-/X/C+/C+/B-/B- Sound: B+/B- & C+/B B B-/B/B/B/B+
Extras: C+/C+/C-/C/B-/C/C+ Main Programs: B-/C+/B-/B-/B-/B-/B-
new set of classical releases includes some nice surprises...
start with a composer whose work we have not had
enough of on this site, Gaetano
(2018) is a music melodrama with Alessandro De Marchi conducting and
Silvia Paolo directing. A long 160 minutes, it is very thorough,
moves well enough and has some fine sets with amazing vocals The tale
of a shepherd who may or may not be heir to a royal throne has its
many twists and complications just for starters, but then a
surprising death has him trying to get that throne, only to find more
twists and surprises.
being purposely vague so I both do not ruin anything or give away
anything that might follow by predictability or some coincidence,
depending on what you would think of the final plot. However, the
opera singers really deliver and anything that might be hard to
suspend disbelief about is moved over by their talents, so those
interested and can think they can handle the length of the program
should check into it.
(2019, with Kaija Saariaho and Jean-Baptiste Barriere) is an
experimental video presentation with classical music that is abstract
and often dissonant, et al, in its arrangement and presentation, but
the makers attempt to match it with images (often of the artists
performing) that are blurred, distorted, mixed-up, trippy and
different than what you would see in a music video. Intended or not,
they also look like experimental video of the 1970s when people were
just starting to figure out what they were doing with the then-young
format as analog just found full color.
video can be repetitive and that's fine if you like it, but the
problem is it just did not stay with me or make any major impacts or
points, except to separate itself from a slew and glut of very bad
digital video we are (and can further be if we wish) bombarded with
that is worse. The music is not bad and has a consistently isolated
feel, but that too only goes so far. This is at least ambitious and
worth a look if you are interested.
have one Super Audio CD this time, Felix
Mendelssohn Piano & Cello Works on period instruments
(2019) as performed by Guadalupe Lopez Iniguez on cello and Olga
Andryushchenko on piano. The six pieces are Sonata in D Minor, Op.
58, No. 2, variations on D Major, Op. 17, Albumblatt (Assai
Tranquilo) in B Minor, Sonata in B Major, Op. 45, No. 1 and Lied Ohne
Worte (Andante) in D Major, Op. 109. It is a set that is smooth,
very well played and fits together well.
this is meant to be older music that sounds as intended from the
time, it is not going to be bombastic and overly loud, so expect a
clean, smooth, pleasant performance that will impress purists and
traditionalists of the best kind. That also means the 5.0 mix is not
going to be wildly engaging the surrounds and though the mixers could
have gone overboard and/or became creative, they decided not to here
and skip the gimmickry that haunted many an early multi-channel music
release (think many early discs in the now-virtually gone DVD-Audio
those who like this approach will want to try this disc out and it is
a hybrid, so it has a CD layer for those who do not have SA-CD.
up are two ballets that not only define the modern (or post-modern?)
approach, but implement it without seeming disconnected or
experimental on the side. The
Norwegian National Ballet Ibsen: Ghosts
(both 2017) are two such programs that are well thought out, have
plenty of energy and are performed very effectively. Ghosts
running only 74 minutes) is pretty good and interesting if lacking a
bit something and Hedda
(a longer, healthier 99 minutes) are both created and directed by
Marit Moum Aune, with music by Nils Petter Molvaer (Ghosts
is choreographed by Cina Espejord, Hedda
by Christopher Kettner with group choreography by Kaloyan Boyadjiev)
are still very much in the same vein despite different choreographers
for each show.
playback is an issue visually (is it the shoot or a compression issue
on each disc? More info on this below) but it is still a very
entertaining set of releases and some of the best ballet I've seen in
a while, so try out at least one of them if interested.
for a new version of Mozart's
2018) that is still very popular and often performed. I was never
the biggest fan of the mid-1970s Ingmar Bergman TV special version,
but I did find this early HD release effective...
new version is at least as good and has one thing going for it that
no previous version has, the reader of the book is played to
perfection by none other than the great, internationally known actor
Klaus Maria Brandauer (Out
the James Bond film Never
Say Never Again)
and he is so good, dead-on and perfect as the host that he makes this
one of the greatest visual versions of the classic that has ever been
recorded and probably ever will.
his own special charm, used so well to be bad, but also to be
likable, he is nothing but appealing as an elder (though not looking
that old!!!) and wise reader who should not be impressed by anything
at this point in life, but still is filled with the wonderment he
shares with the children throughout this solid 70 minutes. He was
always a bit underappreciated and proves here once again why and why
he should never be underestimated.
you have to see any version of Magic
you should now start with this one.
conclude with the UNESCO
Beethoven Symphony No. 9 for Peace
(2018) is in D Minor, Op. 125 ''Choral'' features singers Erin Wall
(soprano), Annika Schlicht (mezzo-soprano), Attilio Glaser (tenor)
and Rene Pape (bass) in this grand goodwill gesture show that
celebrates 100 tears since the end of the First World War and after
some key introductions, the show goes on. This runs 70 minutes total
and is a very good performance of the all-time classical classic.
to the great atmosphere, audience and Donald Runnicles conducting
with well-paced flow that makes this a true pleasure to enjoy. WWI
is too often forgotten and that is sadly on the increase. Events
like this help reverse that problem.
six video programs are presented in 1080i 1.78 X 1 digital High
Definition image and have some good color, but all also have some
motion blur and detail issues here and there. Ekstasis is very
stylized, so you can expect more from it, but the two Ibsen
ballets have the most blur sadly, which is a shame because the
performances are so good. Why, I don't know, but it gets in the way
of enjoying the shows.
the Blu-rays offer PCM 2.0 Stereo (most discs default to that, so hit
your audio button if you want the second option) and better, clearer
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes (the Mozart
discs offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.0 lossless mixes) and they all
have fine soundfields for the most part, with Enrico
being the best sonically here. Ekstasis
is a bit weak and has fidelity issues, but its PCM 2.0 16/44.1 Stereo
CD is surprisingly harsh and shrill, so unless that is some kind of
defect, it is one of the poorest classical discs we've encountered in
was also slightly disappointed with the Mendelssohn
Super Audio CD, with its DSD (Direct Stream Digital 5.0 lossless
sound nice and smooth, but not outstanding, extending to its still
decent DSD 2.0 Stereo lossless mix. The CD-compatible PCM 2.0
16/44.1 Stereo track is weaker and weakest of all, but at least it is
not shrill and problematic.
in all seven releases include usually illustrated booklets on the
separate releases of the programs with their usual information and
are often multi-lingual. Donizetti
has some behind the scenes piece, Ekstasis
a few on how the unusual program was made, Gabler
a 52-minutes long documentary on how it was made and UNESCO
has a 12-minutes piece on how and why this special concert was put