SAINT-SAËNS: Violin Concerto No. 3 in b minor, Op. 61. GRIEG: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16.
Julia Fischer, violin-piano; Junge Deutsche Philharmonie/Matthias Pintscher, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEOI 074 3344 TT: 63:00 (concert) 48:00 (interview)

Music of Duparc, Saariaho, Rachmaninoff and Dvorák
Karita Mattila, soprano; Martin Katz, piano

RAVEL: Valses nobles et sentimentales. BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 1. STRAVINSKY: The Firebird.
Daniel Barenboim, piano; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Pierre Boulez, cond.
C MAJOR DVD VIDEO 2008 TT: 98 min.

Julia Fischer already is recognized as one of most exciting young violinists; her many recordings for Pentatone have been highly acclaimed. Now she has signed with Decca, offering a tour-de-force on this DVD: a concert recorded New Year's Day 2008 at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. With the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie directed by Matthias Pintscher Fischer plays a brilliant performance of Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 (we would expect that), and after intermission returns to the stage as soloist in Grieg's Piano Concerto. And the latter is not an amateur performance; her playing is of the highest order. This is an extraordinary accomplishment—I know of no other performer who is a virtuoso on two totally different instruments. A lengthy bonus documentary explains Fischer's study of both instruments. This is a unique occasion displaying a remarkable artist. Video and audio are excellent.

It always is a pleasure to watch amazing soprano Karita Mattila, seen here in a concert recorded in Helsinki in October 2006 with pianist Martin Katz. Bejeweled and glamorous, Mattila is an actress as well as a singer and here we have the opportunity to view her identification with each work, no matter what the language. She adjusts her voice for the intimacy of five Duparc songs, which are followed by a song cycle by Kaija Saariaho written for and dedicated to her. This is a setting of four poems by Amin Maalouf dealing with different aspects of love, and easily could become a staple of concert programs. The Rachmaninoff and Dvorák songs are superb, and the soprano's interest in lighter repertory is obvious from her cabaret-style singing of Golden Earrings. Martin Katz is the perfect accompanist. Video and audio are excellent and a generous bonus is a CD of lieder by German (Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms) and Finnish (Sibelius, Kuula, Melartin) composers, is accompanied by pianist Ilmo Ranta. Complete texts are provided for the DVD repertory. This same program has also been issued by Ondine on CD/SACD (ODE 1100-5)

C major has issued the opening concert of the 2008 Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic, conductor Pierre Boulez and pianist Daniel Barenboim. Bartók's Concerto No. 1 was a repeat of the work Boulez and Barenboim first performed together in 1964 (and recorded for EMI three years later), and it is a superb reading of a craggy work that challenges both performers and audiences. The Ravel waltzes are perhaps a bit heavy-handed as played here. Boulez, of course is a master of Stravinsky. He has recorded all of the composer's orchestral works, sometimes in multiple versions. Boulez's Firebird is already known to collerctors; a performance with the Chicago Symphony recorded in Cologne in 2000 is already available on DVD (REVIEW). Firebird is heard at this concert in its original lush version (we can see the three harps) ending the concert in grand fashion. Video is excellent, audio a bit bass-heavy, but generally well-balanced.

R.E.B. (December 2010)