Soprano VICTORIA DE LOS ANGELES performing music of Schubert, Brahms, Falla, Vives, Granados, Montsalvatge, Rossini, Nin, Wagner and Puccini, filmed in Barcelona and London 1957, 1962 and 1967
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO 3102039 TT: 67 min.

Cellist PAUL TORTELIER performing music of Bach, Beethoven, Fauré, Debussy, Brahms, Shostakovich, Rameau, Handel, and Ravel, filmed in1964, 1969 and 1972
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO 3101979 TT: 130 min.

'CARNEGIE HALL' - 1947 film including many musical excerps recorded in Carnegie Hall. Performers include Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, Leopold Stokowski, Lily Pons, Risë Stevens, Artur Rubinstein, Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza

Here are two more winners in EMI Classics' Classic Archive series. The distinguished Spanish soprano Victoria de los Angeles, who died in January 2005 at the age of 81, is presented in three recitals filmed in black and white without an audience: London September 1, 1957 with pianist Gerald Moore, London May 31, 1962 with the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Georges Pretre, and the Besançon Festival November 14, 1967 with pianist Felix Zanetti. All were BBC productions. De los Angeles is at her finest in Spanish works on the program—she's a bit hard-pressed in the arias from Madama Butterfly and Tannhäuser. Of particular interest is the "bonus"—Damunt de tu només flors by Mompou with the 78-year old composer at the piano filmed in Barcelona January 21, 1971; this is in color. Awkward—and fortunately brief—interviews by John Freeman add little of interest to the DVD.

Cellist Paul Tortelier (1914-1990) had a distinguished career. He performed Strauss's Don Quixote with the composer conducting, and in 1953 recorded the work with Clemens Krauss and the Vienna Philharmonic, and again in 1958 in Dresden with Rudolf Kempe on the podium. This DVD is devoted to three items, the first La Musique et la Nature, a film by Bruno Monsaige directed by Yvonne Courson, made in Germany in March 1972 when Tortelier was 58. This is a dated, hokey presentation interspersing Tortelier's performances with interviews and commentary in which the cellist expounds his thoughts on air, water, earth and fire as related to music. A performance of Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3 was filmed at the Salle Gaveau in Paris January 21, 1969, with pianist Sergio Lorenzi, and the final part features Tortelier's family (his son Yan Pascal, prior to his conducting career, as violinist; his daughter Maria de la Pau, pianist; and his wife Maud Tortelier, cellist) filmed at the Norwich Festival, June 25,1964. The mono sound is adequate, black and white photography quite grainy. This is of considerable historic interest and our thanks to EMI for issuing both of these DVDs.

The 1947 film Carnegie Hall directed by Edgar G. Ulmer is frustrating for what it could have been rather than what is there. Skip the first 40 minutes - a tiresome story of Nora, a cleaning woman in Carnegie Hall, who is passionate about classical music, marries a pianist, has a son and upon the death of her husband must raise her pianist young son. Marsha Hunt plays Nora and doesn't age a day over the two-decades of the story, but the real world is not a part of this film. She wants her son to follow a classical career, although he is more interested in jazz. Finally we get to the concert recordings with the New York Philharmonic including Bruno Walter conducting the Prelude to Die Meistersinger (interrupted by some nonsensical dialogue!), Lily Pons singing Rachmaninoff's Vocalise and the Bell Song from Lakmé, Risë Stevens in an abbreviated My Heart at thy Sweet Voice and the Seguidilla from Carmen, Artur Rodzinski and the finale of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Reiner in the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, and Leopold Stokowski conducting the second movement of the same composer's Symphony No. 5. Soloists are Artur Rubinstein in a majestic performance of Chopin's Polonaise in A Flat and de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance (in both of which we can observe Rubinstein's remarkable style of playing with hands attacking high from above the keyboard), Gregor Piatigorsky playing The Swan accompanied by six harps (!!), Jan Peerce singing O sole mio, and Ezio Pinza with music from Simon Boccanegra and Don Giovanni. Appearances of Vaughan Monroe and Harry James have nothing to do with the film's subject. The frustration is from what else could have been included—but we should be grateful for what we have. Original versions of the release varied considerably; it is to Bel Canto's credit that they have included everything available. Packaging leaves something to be desired. The second page lists "Chapter points and running time," although the time is only listed for the entire DVD (143:31) which is listed as track 1; no timings are given for the other 17 chapters - and it's unfortunate the nonsensical dialogue between some of them wasn't tracked separately so it could easily have been skipped.

R.E.B. (April 2006)