I have found the live video recordings of Ozawa in concert to be consistently far more rewarding than his studio audio only recordings. This pair of concert items from two different venues and recording dates are typical of the excitement and sheer vitality that Ozawa can generate when experienced 'live'.
These two vintage performances show Ozawa functioning on all cylinders and at white heat. The Japanese recording of the Beethoven, made in 2001, has captured a performance that is well up to speed with plenty of bite where required. As always Ozawa conducts with considerable rhythmic tautness and with complete awareness of essential accenting. His knowledge of the works conducted is complete and as usual he conducts without score, although this is not in itself an accurate judge of musical knowledge of course.
Although the Beethoven symphony is played by a traditional modern orchestra of fair size, there is much about the interpretation that is in line with the sort of approach you would expect from the authentic instrument followers with tempi that never drag and with sharp pointing up of detail. The choir and the soloists all sing without reference to any printed copy which enables Ozawa and the singers to communicate directly eye to eye with a resultant directness of response. In summary, this for many, will be the perfect combination therefore. The soloists are all excellent and this recording also enables us to experience Anne Schwanewilms away from her Richard Strauss operatic roles for which she has since become renowned.
The Orff, recorded in Berlin with the BPO some years earlier in 1989, is possibly the best you will ever see / hear. The performance sets off at a scorching pace but produces moments of relaxation at all the right points. The contribution of Kathleen Battle to the Courts of Love section is simply wonderful. Those who know her performance of Strauss with Karajan at the 1987 New Year's Day concert with the VPO will know what I mean. Thomas Allen is well-known for this part having made an excellent audio recording earlier for Previn. The high tenor solo is sung by Frank Lopardo with such technical skill and artistry that I am tempted to think of it as almost a definitive performance! All the singers, as in the Beethoven, sing without scores and with great concentration and evident enjoyment.
The camera work is involving in both concerts and gives good definition with all but the furthest shots. The imaging is well up to the standard one would expect of recordings of these vintages. The sound is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo and is more than satisfactory in my opinion although it is apparent that the 2001 Beethoven sound recording is significantly fuller and with sharper imaging than the 1989 Orff.
I have had many recordings of these two works over the years but believe me, this pair of performances is special. These older but perfectly satisfactory recordings should give much satisfaction to any purchaser who is after musical rewards as a primary consideration. They therefore fully deserve a 5 star rating when judged as vintage performances of note in my opinion.