Met Centennial / LA Variations / Esa-Peka Salonen / Evelyn Glennie / Touch the SoundUntitled Document

Kathleen Battle, Grace Bumbry, Montserrat Caballé, Mirella Freni, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Katia Ricciarelli, Dame Joan Sutherland, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, José Carreras, PlácidoDomingo, Nicolai Gedda, Alfredo Kraus, Luciano Pavarotti, NicolaiGhiaurov, Ruggero Raimondi and many others
DGG DVD VIDEO B0013263 (2 disks) TT: 231 min.

SALONEN: LA Variations. SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 5 in E flat, Op. 82
UBS Verbier Festival Orch/Esa-Pekka Salonen, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 3078648 TT: 56 min.

'TOUCH THE SOUND" with Evelyn Glennie - "A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer
DOCUDRAMA DVD VIDEO NVG 9755 TT: 90 min, + extras

This DGG 2-CD set is advertised as "The Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala," October 22, 1983, and it surely is an album of great interest to all operaphiles—however, it contains less than half of the actual event. This is a treasurable collection of performances by some of the greatest singers of the time all at their performance peak, many in roles in which they specialized.Many of the performances are absolutely stunning, and Birgit Nilsson is astounding and charming at the same time, the only singer to do an encore, a delightful Swedish folk song, in honor of Swedish soprano Christine Nilsson who had sung Marguerite in Faust a century earlier. And one cannot blame producers for being highly selective in their choice of what to include, although had there been another disk I doubt any collector would object to the higher price and surely would welcome additions from major artists not included in this 2-dick set. Many participating artists were far removed from "star" status.To me, it would seem appropriate that many items omitted should have been included: Carol Neblett and Simon Estes in a duet from The Flying Dutchman, Paul Pliska in an aria from Eugene Onegin, Jerome Hines in the "coat aria" from La Bohème, and Regine Crespin singing the Habanera. And I wonder why Leonie Rysanek wasn't in the original program? Some repertory choices were odd to say the least. For example, James Morris is heard in excerpts from Man of La Mancha, Roberta Peters and Robert Merrill sang Sweethearts. The original broadcast was hosted by Peter Allen, announcer for Met broadcasts from 1950 to 2001. He did a remarkable job in a difficult situation. The actual live broadcast included all of the tumultuous applause. On this DVD issuye, the entire concert has been carefully edited; there are no announcements of any kind, but performers and music are identified. This is a terrific set—and you might want to search around to find someone who has a tape of the entire original broadcast to see and hear what we are missing, although an off-air recording would not equal the video and audio quality of this important issue.

Some years ago, R.D reviewed Salonen's LA Variations in a recording with the composer conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic (REVIEW). Salonen wrote this in 1996 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic; other than that the music has nothing to do with Los Angeles nor is it descriptive music. The composer says it is essentially variations on two chords, each consisting of six notes. It is an incredibly intricate score and requires a virtuoso orchestra. A far more intriguing score is Salonen's brilliant piano concerto written for his friend Yefim Bronfman which they recently recorded (REVIEW). The UBS Festival Orchestra was founded in 2000; its music director is James Levine. It consists of young musicians from 35 countries and appears annually at the Verbier Festival as well as touring. They play very well indeed on this concert given in Salle Médran July 26, 2007. The program ends with an impressive very broad performance of Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius. Video direction is straight-forward, but audio is not what it should be. Often we see instruments, particularly percussion, being played, but don't hear them. And what happened to the rest of this concert? Doubtless there was other music on the program, but it is not on this DVD that plays for less than an hour.

Evelyn Glennie continues to amaze. This "docudrama" made in 2004, is indeed a "sound journey." Filmed in England, Scotland, Germany, and Japan, there are informal comments by the spectacular percussionist, and many performances including an improvisation in a Japanese restaurant, and extensive improvisations with avant-garde musician Fred Firth that take place in a huge warehouse. Glennie, who in this movie is sometimes a blonde, a redhead or a brunette, talks about the wondrous world of sound and how she hears/feels it. We also see her working with children, and improvising under varied circumstances. The recorded sound does full justice to the incredible sounds. Don't miss this one, and also investigate Glennie's extraordinary concert recorded in Luxembourg covered on this site (REVIEW). The featured work on this concert is Másson's concerto for Glennie's favorite instrument, the snare drum, written for her. It is stunning.

R.E.B. (December 2009)