CASTRO: Fanfare. MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibiution. SCARPINO/CALDERELLA: Canaro en Paris. ABREU: Tico Tico. BERNSTEIN: Dances from West Side Story. MENDOZA: Guerra de Secciones. GUTIÉRREZ: Alma Ilanera. GERSHWIN: I Got Rhythm. BERNSTEIN: Mambo.
Venezuelan Brass Ensemble/Thomas Clamor, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2056788 TT: 84 min.

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Op. 15. Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat, Op. 19. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37. Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, Op. 58. Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 55 "Emperor"
Daniel Barenboim, pianist-conductor/Berlin Staatskapelle Orch.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 20566778 (2 disks) TT: 114 min + 84 min.

RACHMANINOFF: The Bells, Op. 35. Symphonic Dances, Op. 45. Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27.
Tatiana Pavlovskaya, soprano; Evgeny Akimov, tenor; Vladimir Vaneez, baritone; Lege Artis Chamber Choir; WDR Rundfunkchor Köln/WDR Siunfonieorchester Köln/Semyon Bychkov, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101 439 (2 disks) TT: 158 min.+ 97 min.


Euroarts has rushed to issue this exciting brass concert by the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble conducted by Thomas Clamor; it was recorded in Berlin's Konzerthaus September 4, 2007. Venezuela is doing it right when it comes to classical music education, all brought about by one person: conductor, composer and economist José Antonio Abreu who three decades ago began the concept of combining social work and classical music in order to help children develop social skills through music and enrich their lives. Anyone who heard the BBC Proms concert this season by the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra with conductor Gustavo Dudamel knows what fantastic results this system has produced (can we hope for a DVD of that incredible concert?). A counterpart to the Youth Orchestra is the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble formed in 2003 made up of some of the finest musicians in the training system. Their concert seen on this DVD is stunning to watch—first-class young musicians obviously relishing the excitement of live performance, playing with staggering virtuosity under their inspired conductor Thomas Clamor. Clamor, who plays trumpet and percussion, in 1986 became the youngest member of the Berlin Philharmonic, and has a busy schedule in both performance, conducting and teaching. And what a pleasure it is to watch him conduct! This concert features the Elgar Howarth arrangement for brass of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and a suite from Bernstein's West Side Story. Tomas Medina is the spectacular trumpet soloist in Tico Tico, Félix Mendoza, a member of the percussion section, shines in his own Guerra de Secciones, and there are many other solos, all presented with the ultimate in virtuosity. It's a pleasure to watch the VBE play Bernstein's Mambo, which they repeat as an encore. Photography is as good as it gets, audio quality outstanding. Don't miss this one! And let there be more!

Almost a half-century ago, Daniel Barenboim recorded Beethoven's piano concertos with Otto Klemperer and the Phiharmonia Orchestra for EMI, still in the catalog. In 1975 he conducted them for Arthur Rubinstein's RCA recordings, and has played them countless times in concert. The pianist's remarkable performances of all of the sonatas recorded in 2005 at the Berlin State Opera House have been issued on DVD (REVIEW). This set of the concertos with Barenboim both as pianist and conductor was filmed live at the 2007 Ruhr Piano Festival in the cavernous Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum. The performances seem more like Mozart than Beethoven, respectable but hardly distinctive. The venue looks more like an airplane hanger than a concert hall. In spite of this, engineers have achieved fine sonics and the camera, as one would expect, most of the time is on Barenboim.

The twin-disk Rachmaninoff DVD set is very special in many ways. Orchestral playing is magnificent, the surround sound is among the finest you'll hear (performers are in front with ambient sound from the rear). Semyon Bychkov has a long association with music of Rachmaninoff and his devotion to the composer is obvious in these distinctive interpretations. There are well-prepared "documentaries" for The Bells and Symphonic Dances intertwining the composer's life and this music. The performances of these two works are rather like a final dress rehearsal, with the orchestra and soloists in casual dress and no audience. For the Symphony, the orchestra is in concert garb, but there is no audience. Performances throughout are superb in every way, with three fine vocal soloists in Bells. For whatever reason, in the Symphonic Dances Bychkov doesn't let the final gong smash ring quite long enough, but otherwise this is among the best recordings of this music. Bells and Dances have been issued on a Profil SACD, but it's far more interesting to watch the performances. Highly recommended!

R.E.B. (December 2007)