"La Voce del Cuore"
Performances by and documentary on the life of tenor Giuseppe di Stefano
HARDY CLASSICS DVD VIDEO 4027 TT: 81:47
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'FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS' - A World of Her Own
VAI DVD VIDEO 4431 TT: 89 min.
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BACH-BUSONI: Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. MOZART: Sonata in D, K. 576. SCHUBERT: Sonata in A, D 664/Op. 120. RACHMANINOFF: Etude-Tableaux, Op. 39. Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 32 No. 12. MOSZKOWSKI: Etude in A flat, Op. 72 No. 11. BALAKIREV: Islamey. MOZART-VOLODOS: Concert Paraphrase on Rondo alla Turca
Alexander Gavrylyuk, pianist
VAI DVD VIDEO 4433 TT: 105 min.
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The Hardy Classics DVD devoted to tenor Giuseppe di Stefano contains many moments to treasure, but overall it is frustrating to watch. It features a rather long informal interview with the tenor filmed in 1997 interspersed with excerpts from live performances, and another rather awkward interview from an Italian TV program that does include some glorious singing. However, track listings are vague, no timings are given, and there are no program notes—but there is a list of other Hardy Classics DVDs. Much is made of di Stefano's famous ending of "Salut, demeure" from Gounod's Faust which contains a diminuendo from forte to a whisper on the final C—which Rudolph Bing said was the single most beautiful moment he had heard in the opera house. This magic interlude is heard several times on this DVD—but the complete aria is not presented. Audio choices are Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. They've got to be kidding! Surely there are other live performances by di Stefano that could have been included. In spite of these deficiencies, fans of the tenor voice still will wish to investigate this release—which is issued at premium price.

The Florence Foster Jenkins DVD is fascinating. Collectors with a sense of humor have treasured the few recordings she made privately for Melotone Studios which eventually were issued on LP and currently are available on a Naxos CD (see REVIEW). Donald Collup's documentary, narrated by the author, tells of her life and aspirations leading to that infamous recital in Carnegie Hall October 25, 1944. Included are interviews with some who knew her, along with many photos and reviews. Unfortunately there are no films of her performances, but many of her recordings are played. I thoroughly enjoyed this release.

Ukraine-born pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk has won many competitions including first prize in the 2005 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition. The video of his stunning Miami recital in 2005 was reviewed on this site (see REVIEW). Now we have this concert recorded May 8, 2007 at the Amaturo Theater Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, again part of the Miami International Piano Festival. After a rather prosaic presentation of Busoni's arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Gavrylyuk again shows he is one of the top pianists of the day, ending his recital with the knuckle-buster, the Volodos paraphrase on Mozart's Turkish Rondo, an astonishing display of virtuosity not hindered a bit by the added weight of a wedding ring Gavrylyuk didn't wear in his previous recital. Audio quality is excellent, and the camera almost always is where it should be. A superb issue!

R.E.B. (December 2007)

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