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Gerhard P. Knapp "gpk" (Salt Lake City, UT, United States)
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Verdi: Requiem (Teatro Alla Scala Di Milano) [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Verdi: Requiem (Teatro Alla Scala Di Milano) [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Daniel Barenboim
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Requiem, 20 Mar 2014
I have always treasured Giulini’s 1964 reading of Verdi’s Manzoni Requiem (with his dream team of soloists: Schwarzkopf – Ludwig – Gedda -- Ghiaurov) and perhaps used it as a subconscious “blueprint” when appreciating other performances, either live or recorded. On DVD, my favorite has been Abbado’s deeply felt and searing 2001 recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker, still in very good sound and more than respectable video. Maazel’s more recent interpretation with the Symphonica Toscanini (2007, see my review) I found disappointing. Yes, this is the verbatim beginning of my comments on Gustavo Dudamel’s new Verdi Requiem – and I repeat it here, as I want to put my cards on the table for the following review of Daniel Barenboim’s almost simultaneously released recording. I will not even attempt to compare the two readings: they are vastly different in their respective conceptions, but equally fine.

The Requiem was recorded live in August 2012 at the Teatro alla Scala, an immense theatre, and the challenges for both sound engineers and film crew must have been severe. I respectfully disagree with some fellow-reviewers and find both the audio and the video for the most part very good, if not always outstanding. Not only are the Scala acoustics tamed and focused quite well, the video is relatively sharp, given the difficulty of recording placement and angle. The camera work, however, is not entirely to my satisfaction: too many long shots on the maestro – the soloists rightly get plenty of attention – and the very fine, huge Coro del Teatro alla Scala, too little focus on the orchestra musicians who play very well indeed. One should not forget that Verdi could be a brilliant orchestrator: the Requiem is ample proof of this. The repeated pans through the theatre are useless and annoying.

Barenboim has a stellar quartet of soloists with Anja Harteros, Elina Garanca, Jonas Kaufmann and René Pape, and they give their all for his monumental reading of the score. Harteros, Kaufmann and Pape – the latter despite a few quirky pronunciation glitches – are thoroughly familiar with Verdi, Garanca seems somewhat in awe at times, but carries her part very well. What she may occasionally lack in sheer vocal power (at least on this particular evening), she amply makes up with musical beauty. From the first hushed notes of the Kyrie through the overwhelming cataclysm of the Dies Irae, a stupendous Mors stupebit, a highly expressive Liber scriptus – Garanca shining out – and Quid sum miser with an exquisite dialogue of Harteros and Kaufmann, the quartet perfect in Salva me and a wonderful Recordare – listen to the angelic duet of soprano and mezzo – to one of the finest tenor solos on record in the Ingemisco, you will be spellbound with this performance. Barenboim conducts his large forces with intense concentration, and even during those moments when he seemingly gives them free rein, there is no doubt that all is painstakingly rehearsed. Among the many high points there is a formidable Lacrymosa punctuated by percussion, a glittering tenor solo in the Hostias, the festive Sanctus and hushed Agnus Dei with both female soloists tender and moving… I could go on and on, but listen for yourself. This is Daniel Barenboim’s Requiem. And it is a great Requiem, here to stay with us for many years to come.


Verdi: Messa Da Requiem [Gustavo Dudamel, I. D'Arcangelo, V. Grigolo] [C Major: 714804] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Verdi: Messa Da Requiem [Gustavo Dudamel, I. D'Arcangelo, V. Grigolo] [C Major: 714804] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Verdi
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £20.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A young man's Requiem, 15 Mar 2014
I have always treasured Giulini’s 1964 reading of Verdi’s Manzoni Requiem (with his dream team of soloists: Schwarzkopf – Ludwig – Gedda -- Ghiaurov) and perhaps used it as a subconscious “blueprint” when appreciating other performances, either live or recorded. On DVD, my favorite has been Abbado’s deeply felt and searing 2001 recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker, still in very good sound and more than respectable video. Maazel’s more recent interpretation with the Symphonica Toscanini (2007, see my review) I found disappointing. However, I know that great and complex scores can be performed in many different – and equally convincing – ways. Gustavo Dudamel impressed me with a stunning Dvorak “New World” symphony (Birthday Concert for Pope Benedict, DG DVD, 2007) and his new Mahler Eight (DG DVD, 2012), both attesting to his growing stature as an eminent musician.

The Messa da Requiem was recorded live in the Hollywood Bowl in August 2013. Against all expectations, the audio is very good, hardly blemished by outside noises, perhaps a bit dry and bass-shy for the lack of enclosed hall acoustics, as Mr. John Manning points out in his perceptive review. The video is excellent, too. The LA Philharmonic musicians play exceedingly well and rise to the occasion, as does the splendidly rehearsed Los Angeles Master Chorale. The almost all-Italian quartet of soloists is quite impressive: tenor Vittorio Grigolo shines particularly in the Ingemisco and the Hostias, mezzo Michelle DeYoung and bass Ildebrando D’Arcangelo carry the stage in the Lux aeterna and Libera me Domine, soprano Juliana DiGiacomo once more in the work’s final bars. Altogether one could not wish for better soloists with more pleasing voices, perfectly in tune with the orchestra and choir and with the conductor’s conception of the mass.

As to Maestro Dudamel’s conception, you should listen beforehand to the bonus interview, which is shot through with snippets from the rehearsals. Dudamel was thirty-two years old at the time of this Hollywood Bowl recording. In his remarks on the Missa, he stresses the operatic character of the work, its drama as well as its tender aspects. He conducts without baton, clearly trying to shape the human, choral and instrumental voices with his hands. Already the beginning sections (Requiem, Kyrie) set the tone for his “intimate” reading of the quiet sequences. Then, the Dies Irae explodes in high drama, the Sanctus is dazzling, festive and almost martial in the measured staccato passages, whereas the Agnus Dei is solemn, nearly humble. There is much operatic flavor in this performance, there are brilliant dramatic highpoints with plenty of fire, and, moreover, there is a pervasive aura of consolation that may be missing in other readings: a reassurance for the living that death can be regarded as peace and transition into eternal life. Dudamel does not obliterate the work’s undercurrent of irrevocable loss, pain, despair, and terror in the face of death. But he subdues or even transcends it through hope and – perhaps -- faith. This is a young man’s Requiem, with the occasional smile, the surprising sudden ray of sunshine, and it leaves you, after the final note, not devastated but transported into a sphere of quiet reflection. Warmly recommended as an alternative reading to the prevailing performance tradition.


Beethoven: Complete Symphonies [Mariss Jansons, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra] [Arthaus: 107536] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Beethoven: Complete Symphonies [Mariss Jansons, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra] [Arthaus: 107536] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
Price: £48.07

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious Beethoven set, 22 Feb 2014
In comparison with his earlier Beethoven, it is quite evident that Mariss Jansons has radically re-thought his approach to this symphonic cosmos. The results, captured live in brilliant audio and video (with excellent camera work) in Tokyo’s Suntory Hall in 2012, are magnificent. Jansons combines the best of two worlds in today’s Beethoven interpretation: the transparency, crispness of detail and fleet tempi of the “authentic” school – without the flavor of period instruments which may not be pleasing (yet) to every ear – with the overwhelming “big band” splendor of the “traditionalists”. My benchmarks of cutting-edge readings are Norrington (CD, 2002) and Paavo Järvi (DVD, 2010). Among the recent predominantly traditional recordings, Thielemann (DVD 2010) has many good points. Jansons clearly bridges these extremes, and he does so with outstanding musicianship.

The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, rejuvenated in the past decade or two, rightly uses divided (divisi) violins, and excels both in ensemble and in solo/group work: this is a world-class team of musicians, joyfully in tune with their music director and with each other. They are heard/seen in increasing or decreasing complements, perfectly balanced according to the different demands of each symphony. For example, there are four basses in the First and Second, six in the Eroica and so on. The different sound stages thus remain transparent throughout the set and the respective dynamic shades from ppp to fff are strikingly provided. During some pianissimo parts, you could hear the proverbial pin drop in Suntory Hall.

Both the First and Second are played as genuine Beethoven: the young lion roars in every bar, with sharp rhythmic accents and great detail in the orchestral voices: listen to the various interplays between strings and woodwinds. Jansons, by giving full weight to the early symphonies, contradicts the common mistake of “underplaying” them (Thielemann) and makes them, especially the Second, powerful companion pieces to the Eroica. The latter – listen to the bonus, an intense and revealing rehearsal of Jansons’ “favorite” symphony – is perhaps the best performance I have ever heard of this work. Everything is great, from the graceful yet grandiose first movement through the Marcia Funebre with piercing brass and percussion – the spiritual centerpiece of the symphony – and the martial, brassy Scherzo to the glorious finale, taken fairly fast, but with gravitas and grandeur. Upon repeated listening, I am spellbound from beginning to end.

The Fourth is fleet, but by no means a lightweight, songful with crisp accents – exquisite solos in the woodwinds – and a tender Adagio. Here and in the other symphonies Jansons finds some new details seldom heard before. The final perpetuum mobile is taken very fast, bordering on presto: a virtuosi showpiece for the musicians. The Fifth, again not dragging its feet, highlights the inner voices – listen to the minor key passages in the second movement and some particularly pleasing string cantilenas – and has a breathtaking transition from the eerie pizzicato in the third movement to the unabashed bombast of the finale. In the Sixth, the strings and woodwind figurations shine out again. It is joyful, not plodding and quite triumphant at the end. I find only the second movement – Scene at the Brook – a bit too lovingly slow, but this is a matter of taste.

There is plenty of energy and dance-like spring in the Seventh. Maestro Jansons actually becomes airborne here and elsewhere -- reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein’s heyday -- though he always remains focused on the music. With sharp accents in the first movement, I still wished for a little more power in the brass against the wall of seven basses. The second movement is a gem. The contrast between darkness and light is amazing, lots of tragic undertones emerge, and, surprisingly, this becomes the monumental axis of the symphony. The Scherzo with its chiseled Trio could not be better, and the finale stays in tempo with the third movement. Toward the end, Jansons accelerates and pushes his musicians toward their limits. The Eighth, once again, is no lightweight. Sheer power and elegance are in balance, the brass and timpani rightly prominent. After the graceful middle movements, the Allegro Vivace finale is taken at breakneck speed, leaving the listener breathless.

In the Ninth, we have the full complement of the orchestra joined by the excellent Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks. It becomes clear that this is the cycle’s crowning glory already in the first movement with strident accents in the strings, plangent interjections by the woodwinds and brass, and cataclysmic moments in the recapitulation. There is a strong overtone of pain, and I never heard the final bars equally devastating. The second movement, an eerie presto (taken literally), has a stunning dialog between strings and timpani, only the horns are not quite on the same exalted level. The slow movement has the perfect tempo, it never drags despite the many variations and projects sheer serenity and peace. Surprisingly, Jansons does not pause before he launches into the finale. When the strings, from the basses up to the violins, gradually intone the “Freude” motif, ascending from ppp to fff, you know that this is a highly significant moment for all involved: everything sounds absolutely “right”. The soloists are very good, perhaps not stellar – but who is, given Beethoven’s merciless demands. The final minutes are overwhelming.

My fellow-reviewer S. Swellander is right: there is no “definitive” Beethoven symphonies set, and there never will be. Performance trends are constantly in flux, and so are our own, much more personal perceptions of music. For the foreseeable future, though, Maestro Jansons has given us a set to treasure.


Mozart: Requiem, Hommage a Chopin [DVD]
Mozart: Requiem, Hommage a Chopin [DVD]
Dvd ~ LANDSHAMER CHRISTINA (soprano)
Offered by reflexcd2 SHIPPING FROM THE UK
Price: £19.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine Requiem, but..., 8 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Chopin is said to have asked that Mozart’s Requiem Mass be performed at his funeral. He died on 17 October 1849. The DVD under review documents a mass celebrated on 17 October 2010 at the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw in commemoration of the anniversary of Chopin’s death. Embedded in the liturgy of the mass (read in Latin and in Polish) is the performance of Mozart’s Requiem by Philippe Herreweghe, a quartet of outstanding soloists, the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées and two excellent choirs. If you are primarily interested in Mozart and want to hear the requiem without liturgical interpolations, you will have to make your way to the respective submenu and then choose “play all” at its bottom. This took me a while to figure out, so be forewarned. You may conclude from the above that this performance of the Requiem (like Solti’s musically flawed 1991 Vienna production) is a stop-and-go enterprise and thus does not have the natural continuity the music requires. This is obvious even in the pasted-together track where there are some awkward moments at the beginning of movements. Herreweghe was apparently not altogether privy to the order of proceedings: he at times looks for guidance to the person standing behind him who would indicate whether the music was to continue or was to be interrupted by parts of the liturgy. I assume a more proficient recording/cutting team could have made the performance appear more seamless.

As a performance – and given the fact that it could not flow in its natural momentum – it is still very good. Herreweghe uses the Beyer edition and he has his period instrument musicians, choristers and soloists on their collective toes throughout the score. In the Requiem’s more intimate moments, I would have wished for a bit more warmth and tenderness, occasionally some slower tempi. On the other hand, the tutti sections shine out with grandeur and refinement. Perhaps it was the ceremonial occasion which lent a faint chill to this interpretation. But perhaps it does indeed reflect Herreweghe’s most recent thoughts on the music as well. If you can live with the problems mentioned above and are looking for a DVD recording in good (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) sound and very fair video, this might be your choice. Alas, there are no other recent DVD recordings of this masterpiece and Gardiner’s as well as Bernstein’s fine renditions show their age in both video and audio.


Bruckner: The Mature Symphonies [Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin] [Accentus: ACC102176] [Blu-ray] [2013] [NTSC]
Bruckner: The Mature Symphonies [Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin] [Accentus: ACC102176] [Blu-ray] [2013] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Staatskapelle Berlin
Price: £28.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Sixth, 8 Feb 2014
Having dearly loved Bruckner’s music for decades, I must confess that his sixth symphony with its many quirky and seemingly unrelated motifs, strange harmonies and frequent lack of linear development has not been among my favorites. My friend Clive Goodwin (see his excellent review of the same disk) recently directed my attention to Bruckner’s use of the Phrygian scale and thus opened my ears for a new appreciation of the work.

We are now fortunate to have Daniel Barenboim’s June 2010 live recording of the Sixth at the Berlin Philharmonie with his Staatskapelle Berlin in exemplary video and audio (once again: bravo Accentus!). Needless to say, the Staatskapelle musicians are consistently superb, in solo and group passages as well as in the overwhelming ensemble in the tutti sections. Barenboim – he conducts without a score and never ceases to amaze me – is sensitive to every nuance, every mood change, and he brings out a cohesive structure in the entire symphony I found missing or obscured in other interpretations. He displays the ideal balance between gravitas and occasional bold jauntiness in the first movement, highlights the melancholic beauty of the Adagio, the festive “hunting” aura of the Scherzo, and pulls all the stops in a highly dramatic, powerful finale that will leave you speechless. It is difficult to bring off a symphony with predominantly slow movements (Maestoso – Adagio – Nicht schnell – Bewegt, doch nicht zu schnell), but Barenboim, with flexible tempi and swift interplay between instrumental groups, does it irresistibly. This reading will keep you spellbound from beginning to end. It certainly has brought Bruckner’s Sixth much closer to my heart. Now I can hardly wait for the release of the remainder of this remarkable Bruckner cycle. Meanwhile: who will give us an equally excellent Third on DVD?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2014 8:57 PM BST


Bruckner: Mature Symphonies Vol.2 [Symphony No. 5] [Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin] [Accentus: ACC102175] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Bruckner: Mature Symphonies Vol.2 [Symphony No. 5] [Daniel Barenboim, Staatskapelle Berlin] [Accentus: ACC102175] [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Staatskapelle Berlin
Price: £29.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Desert-island Fifth, 23 Jan 2014
If I were to be banished to the proverbial desert island and could only take along a dozen recordings, this would be one of them. On the heels of a somewhat routine Fourth in his series of "Mature Bruckner Symphonies", Daniel Barenboim and his Staatskapelle Berlin pull out all the stops to give us an absolutely stellar Fifth. This was recorded live in great audio and video - excellent camera work invariably in sync with the score as we can expect from Accentus - at the Philharmonie Berlin on 21 June 2010. Once more, in terms of their virtuosity, refinement, splendor and sheer power, the Staatskapelle musicians demonstrate that they are one of a handful of leading orchestras in today's world. Ensemble, group and solo work are stupendous. The musicians are visibly in tune with their music director, evoking several of his rare smiles. Barenboim conducts the 71-minutes colossal symphony without a score: a rare feat indeed given the many quasi-repetitions and dynamic or voice shifts within the same thematic material. As far as I can determine without a score, the version performed here ("original version" of 1878) does not appear to be significantly different from the Novak edition used by other conductors.

From the measured introduction and the epic, monumental development of the first movement through the intimate, sublime beauty of the Adagio - Barenboim takes it slow as indicated, but never too slow and dirge-like - and the quirky, brilliant Scherzo with its biting accents to the glorious finale with its enormous contrapuntal fugue, this reading will grip you and not let go until the triumphant final bars. Every note, every shift in mood and dynamics is done "right", and the whole structure with its self-referential quotations and allusions remains present every moment. This is not only an inspired, but a highly concentrated reading that reveals the conflicting "two souls" within Bruckner's symphonic cosmos: the devotional striving toward metaphysical peace and the fear of death and nothingness. It is the clash of these forces that accounts for the proto-modern character of Bruckner's music, for its abrupt shifts in harmony and rhythm, its sharp, dissonant edges and disquieting silences. Barenboim often lets the silence speak between notes. He also doubles the timpani at the end of the first and third movement and in the finale to good effect: they are not drowned by the massed brass (as can be heard in other recordings) and thus the finale ends in overwhelming grandeur.

This is my version of choice on DVD, a companion piece to Franz Welser-Möst's (Euroarts, 2007) different, but equally moving recording (in the acoustically problematic Stiftsbasilika St. Florian, Linz). The late Claudio Abbado's quite special, but rather genteel reading (Accentus 2012) in my opinion does not come to grips with the symphony's chilling subtext.


Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 Op. 36, Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor (Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow/Vladimir Fedoseyev) [DVD] [2013]
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 Op. 36, Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E minor (Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow/Vladimir Fedoseyev) [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Beethoven
Price: £20.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine performances, stupid camera work, 14 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Vladimir Fedoseyev and his Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (now: Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra) have given us a splendid Tchaikovsky Cycle on DVD (Arthaus, see my review) recorded live in the Alte Oper Frankfurt 1991, for today's standards in slightly dated video but still in very acceptable audio. The new set was recorded live in the Vienna Musikvereins-Saal in March 2009 in good, but not outstanding PCM Stereo. The recording level is fairly low, and you may have to crank up your amplifier. As to the video, it is technically fine, however the camera often bores us with endless pans/zooms of the hall instead of staying with the orchestra sections: this is quite annoying. Long shots of the Musikvereins-Saal show that the camera team was much less interested in the music making than in the venue. Even when the focus is on the musicians or the conductor, it is erratic. This is even more deplorable as the Moscow musicians as an ensemble as well as in groups or solo work are excellent and deserve better. So does Fedoseyev who has his musicians so well prepared that they play on the beat - not after the beat as many European orchestras do.

In case you had any doubts about their expertise in the classical-romantic repertoire, forget them. The Beethoven Second is exceedingly well done: both muscular and sensitive to the finer nuances, very much up to par with today's best readings. This applies to the gravitas of the first movement with its Marseillaise allusions and the entire score up to the brisk - but never blurry - finale. I would have wished for a bit more tenderness in the shimmering second movement and for less slowing down in the Scherzo's trio, but this is a matter of personal taste.

If you are familiar with Fedoseyev's earlier Tchaikovsky Cycle (DVD, Arthaus), you will appreciate that he re-visits the Fifth Symphony in the same spirit but also with fresh insights. With the exception of the finale, the tempi in both recordings are very similar. The first movement, from the brooding initial bars to the powerful resolution at the end, is quite monumental, albeit touched by some valedictory melancholy. The Andante cantabile and the Valse are equally graceful and, as can be expected, played with idiomatic perfection. Surprisingly, the finale clocks in at 11:59 (as opposed to the earlier reading at 13:58) and is more gripping and passionate than the earlier version which has quiet moments of introspection and is altogether statelier and almost festive. Both are convincing in their own way. The disk also has a couple of charming encores, performed with smiling gusto by all concerned.

All in all, this is a great Fifth, very different from but equal to Valery Gergiev's interpretation with the Mariinsky Orchestra (DVD Mariinsky 2011). I would gladly give the disk five stars, but the stupid camera work calls for a demerit point.


Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Miaskovsky: Cello Concerto Op.66 (Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Fedoseyev) [DVD] [2013]
Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Miaskovsky: Cello Concerto Op.66 (Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Fedoseyev) [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Miaskovsky
Price: £20.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Truncated Manfred, 14 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Vladimir Fedoseyev and his Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (now: Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra) have given us a splendid Tchaikovsky Cycle on DVD (Arthaus, see my review), recorded live in the Alte Oper Frankfurt 1991, for today's standards in slightly dated video but still in very acceptable audio. At the time of my review of the Tchaikovsky Cycle, I regretted that the Manfred Symphony had been omitted from their program. Now I am not so sure. But first things first:

The new set was recorded live in the Vienna Musikvereins-Saal in March 2009 in good, but not outstanding PCM Stereo. The recording level is fairly low, and you may have to crank up your amplifier. As to the video, it is technically fine, however the camera often bores us with endless pans/zooms of the hall instead of staying with the orchestra sections: this is quite annoying. Long shots of the Musikvereins-Saal show that the camera team was much less interested in the music making than in the venue. Even when the focus is on the musicians or the conductor, it is erratic. This is even more deplorable, as the Moscow musicians as an ensemble as well as in groups or solo work are excellent and deserve better. So does Fedoseyev who has his musicians so well prepared that they play on the beat - not after the beat as many European orchestras do.

I have never fully warmed up to Miaskovsky's Cello Concerto, but both the soloist Alexander Knyazev and Fedoseyev with his Muscovites make a very persuasive case for the piece: the playing is warm, idiomatic and engaging. I'll listen to it again.

As to Manfred, I am at a loss. Yes, the score is long and at times noisy, even bombastic. But this is what Tchaikovsky wrote, and as a whole it is cohesive and a quasi-living organism. I can not comprehend that the work is hardly ever performed without disfiguring cuts, done more or less (in)sensibly by the respective conductor. Is the intention to save the audience from boredom - or what? Whichever the reasons might be, I had hoped that Fedoseyev, a first-rank and thoughtful musician, would respect the score's integrity and play it as is. Not so. There are cuts in the first movement and elsewhere and -- even more damaging -- a long cut in the finale, obliterating the organ apotheosis. Thus the beautiful organ in the Musikvereins-Saal remains silent. To me, this is simply not acceptable, even if the playing is very good. However, if you want a truncated Manfred, go for it.


Mahler: Symphony No.4 [Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig] [Accentus: ACC10257] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Mahler: Symphony No.4 [Riccardo Chailly, Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig] [Accentus: ACC10257] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig
Price: £29.45

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bel-canto Mahler and way beyond, 31 Aug 2013
Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig have already given us two outstanding interpretations of Mahler symphonies on DVD/Blu-ray: the Second and Eighth, both 2011. Here is the Fourth: a most welcome addition to what I hope may be an ongoing series with the goal of eventually recording all the symphonies. I find the Accentus audio and video, as usual, exemplary, with particular praise for the camera team and their appropriate focus on instruments/groups, no gimmickry here but thorough knowledge of the score. As a bonus, the disk brings an introduction to the Welte-Mignon piano player/recorder apparatus and - an eerie but revelatory experience - Gustav Mahler's own recorded Welte-Mignon roll ghost-playing the final movement of the Fourth on the empty Gewandhaus stage in an amazing 7:39 minutes. An additional bonus (bravo, Accentus!) is Riccardo Chailly's 15+ minutes interview/monologue on interpreting Mahler's Fourth that eloquently presents highly intelligent insights on the music and, at the same time, illuminates the conductor's own growth in his approach to Mahler through the decades. Chailly speaks Italian (and makes me wish that I had a real grasp on this language), but the English subtitles convey the gist of his words pretty well. You may want to argue with the conductor about his term "neo-classical symphony" for the Fourth, but this appears to be a matter of definition. Chailly rightly propounds orchestral transparency as essential for the appreciation of Mahler's aesthetics and his extreme dynamics: this is exactly the hallmark of his own recent readings with the fabulous Gewandhaus musicians.

Now to the symphony. My good friend Clive Goodwin has termed Chailly's Mahler "bel-canto Mahler", and I could not agree more with his designation. Everything glows and flows, and there is an almost sublime beauty ever-present throughout the performance. And there is more: the stated tempi are taken almost verbatim (with the exception of the finale), from the first movement's "Bedächtig - nicht eilen" ("deliberate - don't hurry") at 16:50 through the appropriately spooky Scherzo with a brilliant solo part by concert master Frank-Michael Erben (sadly not credited, also superb in the 3rd movement) at 8:43. The Scherzo's "deconstruction of the Viennese Ländler" (Chailly) is followed by the symphony's highpoint, the slow 3rd movement ("Ruhevoll" at 19:47), beautifully played in what I consider the ideal tempo. The finale, "Sehr behaglich" ("very much at ease" at a fairly brisk 8:12), shows soprano Christina Landshamer at her youthful best and then brings the work to an almost inaudible conclusion. Throughout the performance, Chailly manages to pick up several seldom-heard details. The Gewandhaus musicians (with properly divided violins), both in solo/group play and in the tutti passages, give us their genuine Mahler sound, with all the proper portamenti, glissandi, eerie harmonies and sharp transitions. There are quite a few very good recordings of the Fourth to be had, but Chailly's shines out as one of the most inspired.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2013 11:24 PM GMT


Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 [Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra]  [Arthaus: 108078] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 [Franz Welser-Möst, The Cleveland Orchestra] [Arthaus: 108078] [Blu-ray] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ The Cleveland Orchestra
Price: £29.58

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!, 11 Aug 2013
Franz Welser-Möst and his Clevelanders are arguably the most outstanding Bruckner interpreters today. Their Fourth, captured live under the direction of Brian Large in brilliant video and excellent audio, in the Stiftsbasilika St. Florian on 1 September 2012, is not only a perfect new installment in their recordings of the Bruckner symphonies but a small sensation in itself. Welser-Möst, most likely today's foremost Bruckner authority, uses the version of 1888, published by the American musicologist Benjamin Korstvedt in 2004 - first recorded on CD by Osmo Vänskä with the Minnesota Orchestra in 2010 in a very fine reading - thus setting a clear precedent on DVD for future performances. And the Korstvedt edition holds quite a few surprises for those of us who grew up with Haas and Novak. There are never-before-heard figurations in the woodwinds, violas and celli, significant nuances in the brass parts, smaller changes from the 1880/81 version in the first and second movements, a substantial - not unwelcome - cut in the Scherzo and, most obvious, a restored cymbal crash (expunged by Haas and Novak, still retained in the 1960s by some conductors like Jochum, Karajan and Steinberg) in the finale's reprise of the main theme. The cymbal crash (as well as the two following brushes) is not only quite effective but also a perfect climax in the symphony's texture, not unlike the Seventh's slow movement.

St. Florian has a long reverberation which the recording engineers nicely tamed: a remarkable feat. In the first few minutes a very slight harshness in the upper register can be heard until it disappears for the remainder of the performance. The Cleveland musicians are wonderful: every note is not only given its due value, but it is played and sculpted lovingly and idiomatically. Solos are superb and the ensemble could not be better. Tempi are, in my opinion, ideal. The first movement is assertive and full of unresolved tensions, the Andante quasi allegretto sustained by "romantic" longing and nostalgia, the Scherzo incisive with plenty of sharp edges, but elegant as well, the Finale a grandiose resolution in every respect. Welser-Möst is one of the few conductors who are fully aware of Bruckner's proto-modernist elements - often particularly audible as a "subtext" in the secondary voices - and he highlights them. This is a great Fourth that will stand the test of time and captivate you anew every time. Enough said, I want to listen to it again...


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