MENDELSSOHN: Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Psalm 113. Symphony No. 2 "Lobgesang." RIHM: Verwandlung 2.
Anne Schwanewilms, Petra-Maria Schnitzer, sopranos; Peter Seiffert, tenor; Gewandhaus Chor; Chor der Opera Leipzig; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2054668 TT: 113 min + 8 min bonus
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STRAUSS: Elektra
Leonie Rysanek (Elektra); Catarina Ligendza (Chysothemis); Astrid Varnay (Klytämnestra); Hans Beirer (Aegisth); Districh Fischer-Dieskau (Orestes); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO B0005982-09 TT: 116 min + 92 min documentary
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LANGGAARD: Antikrist
Sten Byriel (Lucifer); Anne Margrethe Dahl (Spirit of Mystery); Helen Gjerris (Echo of Spirit of Mystery); Pol Elming (The Mouith Speaking Great Things); Susanne Resmark (Despondency); Camilla Nylund (The Great Whore); Jon Ketilsson (The Scarlet Beast); Johnny van Hal (The Lie); John Lundgren (Hatred); Morten Suurballe (The Voice of God); Danish National Symphony Choir and Orch/Thomas Dausgaard, cond.
DACAPO DVD VIDEO 2.110402 TT: 95 min.
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Riccardo Chailly was appointed music director of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1988, and during that time was acclaimed for his direction of a wide range of repertory. When he left theDutch orchestra after the 2003/4 season he became nineteenth conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Apparently although he had conducted much contemporary music in Amsterdam, he felt he would have even more opportunity to focus on a primary interest of his, contemporary music. This is reflected in his inaugural concert with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra seen on this splendid Euroarts DVD, filmed September 2, 2005, in which he contrasts a powerful new work by Wolfgang Rihm with three works by Mendelssohn, who was conductor of the orchestra 1835-1847. The concert is a brilliant, totally satisfying event. The orchestra is first-rate, performances magnificent, beginning with the first version of the overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream and continuing with Psalm 114 and Symphony No. 2 "Lobgesang." Rihm's 20-minute Verwandlung 2 was commissioned for the occasion by the orchestra, an astonishing work of great appeal. The extended ovation the composer received after the performance was not merely an audience being polite. The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra hall is quite similar to the Concertgebouw and has acoustics that equal it. Audio Producer Georg Obermayer did his task superbly, and camera work is equally fine. A bonus film, Chailly in Leipzig, clearly shows the conductor's avid interest in his new association. Highly recommended!

This Elektra was Karl Böhm's final project. The soundtrack was recorded in the spring of 1981; the conductor died in August of that year just before his 87th birthday. It was his wish that Rysanek sing the title role, the first time she had done this although opera lovers have cherished her Chrysothemis and, later, her Klytämestra. Although towards the end of her career, Rysanek is in superb voice, and it's fascinating to hear her in this role. Ligendza is far from an ideal Chrysothemis, Varnay an appropriately cackling Queen often singing with an approximation of the notes. Fischer-Dieskau brings great nobility to the role of Orest. Böhm's reading is slower than his 1960 DGG recording, leisurely compared with Reiner, Solti, or Mitropoulos, but the sense of occasion is here and the VPO plays magnificently for him. Götz Friedrich directed this production, with set design by Josef Svoboda and costumes by Pet Halmen. The set is appropriately bleak and often it is raining. This concept works, and has been effectively filmed by Rudolf Blahacek. The sound is fine, although the 5.l surround has been achieved via Ambient Sound Technology. Several live performances of Elektra conducted by Böhm are currently available (see ELEKTRA); the finest is the 1965 Vienna performance with Nilsson, Rysanek and Regina Resnek. A track-by-track synopsis is included, with subtitles only in English. The second DVD contains a fascinating 90-minute documentary by Norbert Beilharz on Böhm and his long association with the opera, with many clips from recording sessions which took place in Vienna's Musikverein (the music) and a huge locomotive factory in Vienna (the video); lyp-sync is remarkably accomplished. A superb release!

Danish composer Rued Langgaard's opera Antikrist is described as, "A Religious Mystery Opera...a magnificent doomsday vision...a full length mightmare..." Unfortunately it doesn't live up to this proclamation. Composed from 1921-1930, when the composer was quite young (he was born in 1893), the entire score is filled with the lush orchestral textures of Strauss and Puccini, composers detested by Langgaard's parents; it seems the young composer was breaking away from the home scene, and he did so successfully in this rich music. The plot revolves around Lucifer calling the Antichrist to visit the earth for a few days, during which a series of scenes describe the era's decadence ending with a chorus of angels representing forthcoming redemption. to come. The opera takes place inside a Protestant/Quaker church with the worshipers assuming the principal roles. Music for the most part is Straussian in texture, beautifully orchestrated, well written for the voices. This performance, co-produced by the Royal Danish Opera and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation, dates from 2002. and they have an outstanding cast—particularly the women. Conductor Thomas Dausgaard obviously cherishes this score, and the orchestra is excellent throughout. Surround sound is state-of-the art, and there are subtitles in five languages along with profuse program notes. But don't expect a cataclysmic representation of chaos and doomsday—this music is all too pretty for that. Highly recommended!

R..E. B. (April 2006)