SHOSTAKOVICH: Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 129. DEBUSSY: Violin Sonata in G minor.La fille aux cheveux de lin. DVORÁK: Mazurka, Op. 49. SIBELIUS: Nocturne, Op. 51 No. 3. SCHUBERT: Valse-Caprice No. 6.
David Oistrakh, violinist; Frida Bauer, piano; Moscow Philharmonic Orch/Kiril Kondrashin, cond. (Shostakovich)
VAI VIDEO DVD 4473 TT: 60 min.

Orianna Santunione (Aida); Carlo Bergonzi (Radamès); Fiorenza Cossotto (Amneris); Gianpiuero Mastromei (Amonasro); Ivo Vinco (Ramfis); Franco Pugliese (The King); NHK Italian Opera Chorus; NHK Symphony Orch/Oliviero De Fabritiis, cond.
VAI VIDEO DVD 4483 TT: 161 min.

STRAVINSKY: Le Sacre du Printemps (A Ballet by Uwe Scholz) plus documentary
Giovanni Di Palma and Kiyo Kimura, soloists; Leipzig Ballet; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Heinrik Schaefger, cond./Wolfgang Manz and Rolf Plagge, pianos.
MEDICI ARTS DVD 2055728 TT: 74 min. + 91 min. documentary

VAI's DVD of performances by David Oistrakh is an invaluable addition to the catalog offering performances never before released on video (EMI has four Oistrakh videos). Of particular importance is the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 2 which was written as a 60th birthday present for David Oistrakh. This disk contains the official world premiere performance September 26, 1967 (it had been played in Bolshevo near Moscow about two weeks earlier). A stunning performance by any standards, and the black and white photography is adequate, as is the sound. The following year Oistrakh made his commercial recording of the work with the Moscow Philharmonic conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and there also is a BBC performance from the same year with Evgeny Svetlanov on the podium. This DVD also contains the shorter works listed above in which the pianist is Frida Bauer recorded during a 1972 recital. Playing time for this DVD is only one hour, but these are treasures. It's interesting to note that for the concert with the concerto, Kondrashin is on a very high podium; he towers over everyone else. Usually in a violin/piano recital the violinist is in the curve of the piano or in front of it. In the recital works on this disk, Oistrakh is to the left of the pianist; he never looks at her, and she couldn't watch him unless she turned around. Seems rather odd?

The main interest in this Aida, filmed in Tokyo's HHK Hall in September 1973, is the opportunity to watch two veteran opera singers in their prime: Carlo Bergonzi and Fiorenza Cossotto. Bergonzi here is off to a rather rough start, but soon gets into stride, and Cossotto is one of the finest Amnerises you'll ever year. The title role is sung by a soprano I'd never heard of before, Orianna Santunione, who is excellent in every way—it's surprising her career didn't develop further (you can see her singing O Patria Mia from this production on Youtube). While this production is far from the Zefferelli class, it is quite elaborate, and the Japanese ballet is extraordinary. This was a Japanese telecast and surtitles in that language are embedded in the picture—and surtitles also are provided in English, French and Italian. A fascinating document!

Medici Arts' Stravinsky DVD features Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps as choreographed (twice) by the controversial Uwe Scholz, whose short life is the feature of the accompanying documentary entitled Soulscapes. Scholz (1958-2004) was considered to be a major force on the balletic scene, particularly in Leipzig, the source of these performances. Scholz had a troubled life indeed, as reflected in his choreography of Stravinsky's masterpiece for a single dancer, the spectacular Giovanni Di Palma. This is performed with accompaniment by two pianists, Wolfgang Manz and Rolf Plagge, on a bare stage except for the rear, which is a movie screen on which we see snippets filmed in latrines, bars, dressing rooms and varied other places, along with violence and vomiting. DVD notes say this is "like a single howl, screaming across the stage....a visible cry for help from a single, God-forsaken breast". During the final pages, the dancer takes a dark substance (feces?) from a toilet and smears it all over the walls and himself. The audience, indeed, does seem to be stunned, but applause is significant. I don't care to watch it again. But I will watch Scholz's version of the standard Rite, performed by the Leipzig Ballet with Kiyoko Kimura giving a stunning virtuoso performance as the Chosen One. This is accompanied by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra conducted by Henrik Schaefer. Stravinsky's score is indestructible—it will survive Scholz's solo dancer adaptation. These performances are from a single evening February 22, 2005. Sound is stereo, adequate but not as spectacular as it should be.

R.E.B. (January 2008)