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HALL OF FAMEon 14 November 2007
This DVD preserves the opening concert of the 2006-2007 season at Carnegie Hall, which took place on October 4, 2006. As 2006 was a 'Mozart Year' -- the 250th anniversary of his birth -- and as Franz Welser-Möst is an Austrian, the program includes, in addition to music of Mozart, music by two other Austrian composers, Franz von Suppé and Johann Strauss II. The concert was to have included orchestral songs of Mahler, another Austrian, sung by Thomas Quasthoff, but a last minute cancellation due to the singer's illness caused a minor crisis. But as it happens a preeminent Mozart singer, soprano Dorothea Röschmann, then currently singing in the Met's production of 'Idomeneo', graciously agreed to step in to sing the Countess's two arias from 'The Marriage of Figaro.'

I had not seen the Cleveland Orchestra for several years and noted how many new relatively young players are in the orchestra, including many of the principals. Still, the orchestra, in its fifth year with Welser-Möst at its helm, maintains the very high standards achieved under the legendary Georg Szell. This orchestra plays like a large chamber ensemble, high praise indeed.

The program opens with an exhilarating performance of von Suppé's 'Light Cavalry Overture'. The brass particularly sound exciting and yet always elegant. The string pianissimi in the overture's second theme gives one goosebumps. A gorgeous performance. This is then followed by one of Mozart's lesser-played concertos, one that is notable for its creative form and lovely themes. In the booklet notes the solo pianist, the magnificent Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, calls this concerto 'a little opera', an apt description. The second movement in particular could just as easily have been an aria from one Mozart's operas. The final rondo sounds like one of those rustic choruses that feature in, say, 'The Marriage of Figaro'. Andsnes, always a superb performer, and the orchestra breathe together. This is music-making of the highest order.

Dorothea Röschmann, here elegant in a floor-length black velvet gown, was made to sing Mozart. Her 'Porgi amor', the Countess's Act II aria in which she mourns the fading of her husband's love, is exquisite, as is her Act III aria, 'E Susanna non vien! ... Dove sono', where she plots how to win him back. I imagine the Carnegie Hall audience was sorry not to hear Quasthoff singing Mahler, but their rapturous applause for her suggests they were not disappointed with the last-minute substitution.

The concert ends with something a little unusual, three pieces by Johann Strauss II -- 'Artist's Life', 'Anne's Polka', and the 'Die Fledermaus' Overture. In the United States, Strauss doesn't ordinarily appear in any other than pops concerts, but Welser-Möst often plays his music in regular concerts, reflecting that it is as well-made as any of the great masters' music, an opinion also held by Brahms and Wagner. Certainly the Cleveland's elegant performances of these three gems support that notion.

A wonderful concert with wonderful unobtrusive video (directed by Brian Large) and lifelike sound.

Picture format: NTSC - 16:9; Sound: PCM Stereo - DD 5.1 - DTS 5.1; Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian; Region code: 0 (worldwide); Disc format: DVD 9; Running time: 79 mins.

Scott Morrison
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