KARLOWICZ: Violin Concerto in A, Op. 8. MLYNARSKI: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D, Op. 6. BACH: Prelude from Partita in E. MONTI-KENNEDY: Czardas. Danny Boy.
Nigel Kennedy, violin; Polish Chamber Orch/Jacek Kaspszyk, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO 0946379934 TT: 110 min (incl. 20 min. documentary)

TCHAIKOVSKY: Excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty. SAINT-SAËNS: The Dying Swan. ROSSINI: Finale from Il Viaggio a Reims.
Soloists and Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre; Soloists of the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre; Mariinsky Theatre Orch/Valery Gergiev, cond.
BEL AIR DVD VIDEO BACO 30 TT: 126 min (incl. 56 min. feature)

GLINKA: Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture. BERLIOZ: Harold in Italy (finale). VERDI: La forza del destino Overture. WAGNER: Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. JOHANN STRAUSS: Polka, Op. 281. LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 2. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Capriccio espagnol. BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 (2nd mvt). STRAVINSKY: The Firebird (finale).
Yuri Bashmet, viola; Yefim Bronfman, piano; Mariinsky Theatre Chorus and Orchestra/Valery Gergiev, cond.

Nigel Kennedy's latest recording "Polish Spirit" has been released on CD as well as DVD - for detailed comments, check out the CD REVIEW This DVD shows the superstar violinist in fine form, dressed rather like a clown, hair pointing straight up, but playing with remarkable virtuosity in repertory close to him. Some might find his onstage antics overdone, but surely there is no question that the audience loves it. The CD contained the violinist's arrangements of two Chopin nocturnes, the DVD offers instead the Bach prelude mentioned above, and Kennedy's arrangement of Danny Boy, and an over-the-top arrangement of Monti's Czardas which almost goes on too long as Kennedy ambles among the orchestra and audience. Also included is a film by John Stanley called The Adventure about Kennedy's love for Poland, with excerpts from rehearsals. A highly entertaining DVD, for sure, with fine sonics and video.

The two Bel Air DVDs filmed in the new Mariinsky Theatre concert hall give us ample opportunity to closely observe conductor Valery Gergiev; the camera is focused on him much of the time. His gesticulations might seem over the top, with twittering fingers, rapid swirls and arm movements. He seems to be talking much of the time, although not making vocal sounds. On occasion he seems to be conducting with a toothpick. However, Gergiev surely does get results, and both orchestras play superbly for him, aside from a few shaky moments in Polovtsian Dances. And the new concert hall obviously has superb acoustics, and beauty to match.

One New Year's Eve concert was filmed December 31, 2006 and features the Mariinsky Theatre soloists and ballet in excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty (which was premiered in the hall in 1890), a magnificent Dying Swan with Ulyana Lopatkina, and the finale from Rossini's Il Viaggio a Reims, followed by a rather awkward on-stage party scene in which everyone, including Gergiev and Lopatkina, drinks champagne. The date for the second "New Year's concert" is not given. It is a rather odd program featuring music by composers who in some way over the years were involved with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra: Glinka, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Stravinsky, and Berlioz who conducted his own Harold in Italy. In 1862, Verdi's La forza del destino was given its premiere at the theatre in the presence of the composer. Bel Air's DVD booklet states we see the "finale" from Harold in Italy, but actually we have the first, third and fourth movements. In spite of the brilliant performance, Bronfman's Liszt Concerto No. 2 is given a luke-warm reception (unless more applause was edited out), and he also is listed as soloist in the "2nd movement" of Capriccio espagnole, in which he does not appear, and the work is presented in its entirety. DVD notes also state we will see/hear the "finale" of The Firebird; it is more than that - the excerpt begins with the Infernal Dance. Even with these production problems, both DVDs are worthy of attention and the 5.1 surround sound is adequate if not of demonstration quality.

R.E.B. (January 2008)