GLINKA: Ruslan and Luydmila Overture. RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade,
Op. 35. HANDEL: Concerto in D, HWV 335a. WOLF-FERRARI: The Secret
of Suzanne Overture. STRAUSS: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier.
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 9 in D minor
SMETANA: Má vlast
Here are three more orchestral DVDs of uncommon interest. It's always a pleasure to watch Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphia Orchestra. Here are two of his specialties, the Rimsky-Korsakov and Strauss, in the stream-lined performances we have come to expect. With the exception of the Handel, all of this music was recorded in the Academy of Music June 30-July 1, 1978 (the Handel a year earlier). Video concentrates on Ormandy most of the time, and it is surprising director Kirk Browning didn't focus more often on important solos, although we do have the opportunity to see concertmaster Norman Carol in Scheherazade. Audio quality is satisfactory if not of demonstration quality. Let us hope there are more Ormandy treasures still in the vaults.
This Bruckner Ninth was recorded in Vienna's Musikverein October 31, 2007 when the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst were on tour. The performance is of highest quality, Felix Breisach's direction has the camera where it should be most of the time, and audio producer Michael Seberich did a splendid job of capturing the warm acoustics of Vienna's most famous concert hall. Surprisingly, at the conclusion of the symphony the conductor does not permit solo bows by any members of the orchestra—he should have. Also included is a commentary by Welser-Möst in which he discusses acoustics of the Musikverein as well as Bruckner's final symphony. Surely this concert included another work—what was it, and why is it not included on this DVD?
Má vlast was a specialty of Rafael Kubelik, He first conducted it in Prague in 1945, and recorded it with the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony. After this 1984 Bavarian Radio performance, he would record it again in 1990 with the Czech Philharmonic. This DVD offers an emotionally-charged reading beautifully played and well-presented in video. Audio is adequate, and there is an 11-minute "bonus" with an unidentified narrator giving an illustrated lecture on this music and and the tragic life of its composer—with brief comments by Kubelik. A worthy issue!
R.E.B. (June 2008)