MAHLER: Symphony No. 3 in D minor "Nature."
Anna Larsson, contralto; Arnold Schoenberg Chor; Tözler Knabenchor; Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 2056338 TT: 102 min.

DEBUSSY: Fetes from Nocturnes. Jeux. Images for Orchestra. SCHOENBERG: Accompaniment to a Cinematographic Scene, Op. 34. STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring.
New Philharmonia Orch (Fetes/Jeux); BBC Symphony Orch (Images/Stravinsky)/Pierre Boulez, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 3085238 TT: 99 min.

DVORÁK: Stabat Mater, Op. 58.
Eva Urbanová, soprano; Katerina Kachliková, mezzo-soprano; Stefan Margita, tenor; Peter Mikulás, bass; Prague Symphonic Choir; Prague Symphony Orch/Libor Pesek, cond.

What can one say of absolute perfection? That's what we experience on this stunning DVD of Mahler's massive Symphony No. 3 recorded August 19, 2007 at the Lucerne Festival. Abbado was not well enough to conduc this symphony in the United States last year, and it is wonderful news that he appears to be in great shape physically. The orchestra is comprised of performers who play for the experience of performing under Abbado's direction, and throughout this performance consummate virtuosity is always apparent, but never superficial. Audio is first-rate, the camera work could not be bettered. Bernard Haitink's Berlin Philharmonic video has its moments, but cannot match Abbado's inspirational interpretation.

Medici Arts has released these BBC televised performances with Pierre Boulez on the podium. He is as expressionless as ever here, and while these performances are immaculate, there's little magic. This is one of the most boring performances I've ever heard (seen) of Stravinsky's Rite. Audio quality for the latter is disappointing considering the general high quality of BBC broadcasts, and this one took place less than a decade ago. Skip this one. Michael Tilson Thomas's San Francisco performance is brilliant (REVIEW), and even better is the Riccardo Chailly/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra filmed on Christmas Day 2002, available only as a bonus DVD in the superb 13-disk set of Chailly/RCOA live performances on Q Disk MCCM 97033, which, unfortunately, is difficult to find.(REVIEW).

Some time ago this site mentioned a superlative DVD of Dvorak's masterpiece Stabat Mater performed by distinguished soloists with the Prague Philharmonic Chorus and the Czech Philharmonic directed by Vaclav Neumann (REVIEW). Now we have another DVD, this a performance recorded at the Alta Opera in Frankfurt in 1993. Libor Pesek is the conductor, with four excellent soloists as well as the dependable Prague chorus and orchestra. Video is excellent, avoiding the ultra closeups so many of today's directors favor, and the sound is full and rich, although the "surround" is artificially produced. Recommended!

R.E.B. (October 2008)