BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B flat. Symphony No. 6 in A. Symphony No.
8 in C minor. Symphony No. 9 in D minor. SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B
minor "Unfinished." HAYDN: Symphony No. 76 in E flat.
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 9 in E flat, K. 271 "Jeunehomme." Piano Concerto
No. 12 in A, K. 414. Piano Concerto No. 26 in D, K. 537 "Coronation."
Mitsuko Uchida (No. 9), Vladimir Ashkenazy (No. 12), Homero Francesch
(No. 26); Salzburg Mozarteum Orch/Jeffrey Tate, cond.(No. 9); Royal Philharmonic
Orch/Vladimir Ashkenazy, cond. (No. 12); Deutsche Kammerphilharmonic/Gerd
Albrecht, cond. (No. 26).
Distinguished conductor Günter Wand became Principal Conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in 1982 and continued to conduct that orchestra until his death in 2002 at the age of 90. During that period he made highly-acclaimed recordings of music of Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and Schubert. These superb TDK videos give us the privilege of watching Wand in performances recorded July 7, 1996 (Bruckner 6/Haydn), July 11, 1998 (Bruckner 5), July 9, 2000 (Bruckner 8), and July 8, 2001 (Bruckner 9/Schubert). The frail, gentle conductor uses a minimum of gesture, podium antics are not for him, but the results he achieves are magnificent. These performances sustain his reputation as a master of Bruckner, the orchestra is superb, and the surround sound magnificent replicating in the home the rich sounds of an orchestra playing in an acoustically perfect hall. As of this writing, these are available only in a boxed set. This is one of the most satisfying orchestral DVD videos I've heard and I'll return to it often.
Here are the final two installments in the Liceu Opera presentation of director Harry Kupfer's sometimes bizarre, mod concept of Wagner's Ring cycle, and as with the first two, the visual concept is imaginative, full of symbolism, visually usually dark and underlighted. Throughout all four music dramas there's a series of squares across the back, rather like a large waffle, which lights up in varying colors to suggest emotions at the time. This concept is not for me, although many have welcomed it, and to them I say, "to each his own." Somewhere along the way Wagner's grandeur has been lost, and these productions are not helped by the quality of singing which is average at best, mediocre at worst. Faulk Struckmann's Wotan and Wanderer are consistently fine, but the heldentenors aren't—and it is embarrassing to listen to and watch them. For the review of Das Rheingold, click HERE; for the review of Die Walküre, click HERE.
Euroarts calls its Mozart concerto DVD Volume I of "Great Piano Concertos." The next three DVDs are mentioned in the disk jacket, apparently not yet available. The label has assembled live performances by a varied group of fine pianists. Volume I offers Concerto No. 9 with Mitsuko Uchida recorded in Salzburg's Mozarteum May 12, 1989, Concerto No. 12 with André Previn recorded at Hampton Court Palace in London June 22, 1990, and Concerto No. 26 with Homero Francesch recorded at the Christian-Zais-Saal, Wiesbaden, December 2, 1990. Produced by Bernd Hellthaler and directed by János Darvas, the performances are what one would expect from these performers, the camera work is fine, the surround sound (probably artificially produced) very effective. I look forward to the next three volumes which will include performances by Zoltán Kocsis, Radu Lupu, Ivan Klánsky, Malcolm Frager, Aleksander Madzar, Heldrun Holtmann, Deszo Ránki, another performance by Previn, and two by Christian Zacharias. I look forward to them.
R.E.B. (August 2005)