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Gergiev conducts the Vienna Philharmonic : Prokofiev Classical symphony, Schnittke Viola Concerto, Stravinsky Firebird [DVD] 
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DVD Special Features:
Valery Gergiev on Stravinsky & Prokofiev
Yuri Bashmet on Schnittke
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Sound: LPCM Stereo, AC3 Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Subtitles: German, French, Spanish, Italian
Valery Gergiev's career knows few bounds, and this concert from the 2000 Salzburg Festival finds him guiding the Vienna Philharmonic through three 20th-century Russian classics with typically edge-of-seat charisma. After a ponderous start, Prokofiev's Classical Symphony goes with style and subtlety. Alfred Schnittke's Viola Concerto has the extreme emotional range expected of this still-controversial composer, but soloist and dedicatee Yuri Bashmet covers all bases in this powerfully focused account. The concert ends with Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird in its complete 1910 version (ignore what it says in the next-to-useless booklet note). If lacking the vividness that Gergiev's Kirov orchestra would bring to it, there's no doubting the sophistication or the commitment of the Vienna players. Gergiev's conducting grows more unorthodox by the year--at times evoking a shamanistic Max Bygraves--but his energy and communicating zeal are something else.
On the DVD: Valery Gergiev conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is presented on DVD in a 16:9 aspect ratio that reproduces Brian Large's incisive direction with the expected clarity; plus there's a choice of PCM Stereo, Dolby 5.1 or DTS options. The special feature--subtitled in four European languages--consists of a chat with Gergiev on Prokofiev and Stravinsky, and a lengthier conversation with Bashmet on his association with Schnittke and the genesis of the Viola Concerto, with enough amusing anecdotes to keep listeners intrigued while listening to the music. --Richard WhitehouseSee all Product description
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The three pieces of music all have something in common - their quiet, subdued passion. They are all like a young girl, hiding away her inner most thoughts - sometimes happy, sometimes frightened, sometimes light, sometimes dark. The highlight for me was the Viola concerto - Yuri Bashmet controls the emotions of this piece as though it was he who had composed it. It is as though he is pulling at some dark, despairing memory and with every note pulls it out of his being - performing an exorcism of something that has nearly torn him apart... That takes great courage to play like that.
You can't fault the energy and dedication put into this concert - but for me I like pieces that come right out and say it - powerful and brash - all these pieces are a little too "tinkly" for my liking - but that's my own fault for being ignorant to classical music. If you like your music pretty and secretive then this is for you.
The concert starts off with Prokofiev's 1st Symphony, the `Classical,' which Gergiev explains in the bonus interview was written with Haydn in mind and is possibly the most popular of all 20th century symphonies. It is given with a fairly light touch at steady speeds which allow for details to come through clearly.
The following concerto, one for viola by Schnittke, is well-played by Yuri Bashmet and the orchestra. However, despite his advocacy in the bonus interview, I find that this is not a piece that I warm to. Having said that, I think it is fair to say that it would be hard to imagine a more committed performance of the work. So if this is something that appeals, you should have no doubts on this performance.
That brings us the final item, that of the complete Firebird ballet score in the original version which Gergiev strongly prefers. This is a piece that, thanks to modern DVD and Blu-ray recordings, I have now come to know very well indeed in its proper ballet form. As a result, whenever I listen to a concert performance such as here, I have no difficulty in visualising the actions on the ballet stage.
This is relevant because, as Gergiev says in his interview, that is exactly what he has in mind when conducting a concert performance. He feels that this is essential because it means that there is more colour, more drama and more meaning for both the music and the audience this way. Listening to this performance, and already owning Gergiev's performance with the Kirov Ballet, it is quite clear to me that he is doing as he describes. This is a particularly fine performance throughout with an especially thrilling end and with the final chords held back for full sonic effect and a long drawn-out crescendo that seems to go on forever. Terrific!
The recording offers fine DTS and Digital 5.1 surround sound as well as the usual stereo. The quality of the sound is better than that which would normally be found on a CD and which makes a wonderful effect in the Stravinsky especially. The camera work is also excellent - finely detailed without being intrusive.
For me therefore, despite my failure to relate to the concerto, this remains a 5 star purchase. I am sure that this will give a great deal of pleasure to most people and should make Schnittke admirers ecstatic.