HAYDN: Cello Concerto No. 1 in C. Cello Concerto No. 2 in D. Piano Concerto No. 11 in D.
Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist; Homero Francesch, pianist; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner, cond.
UNITEL DVD VIDEDO 2072068 TT: 73 min.

SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 in C, D. 944 "The Great." Mass No. 6 in E flat, D. 950.
Peter Schreier, Werner Krenn, tenors; Walter Berry, bass; Wiener Sängerknaben; Herrenchor der Hofmusikkapelle; Hofmusikkapelle Wien; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Karl Böhm, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2072108 TT: 112 min.

STRAVINSKY: Pulcinella.
Basler Ballett; Yvonne Kenny, soprano; Robert Tear, tenor; Robert Lloyd, bass; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sir Nevillle Marriner, cond.

Sir Neville Marriner figures in two of these DVDs, if only in a minimal way in the Haydn disk. He conducts the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in accompaniment for the Piano Concerto in D with the elegant Uruguayan Homero Francesch as soloist, a performance filmed in the visually stunning Markgräfliches Opera House in Bauyreuth, November 23-27, 1982. The ASMF is listed as conducted by Mstislav Rostropovich for the two cello concertos, but about all he does is give a downbeat at the beginning of each; otherwise, direction is under the capable hands of the concertmaster, the late Iona Brown, who died from cancer at the age of 63, June 4, 2004. The cello concertos were recorded in London's Henry Wood Hall November 17-19, 1975, a year after Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, left the Soviet Union. His playing is as close to perfection as one could get, and the recorded sound for the entire DVD is fine, although the 5.1 doubtless was artificially produced although not so stated. Camera work is appropriate avoiding too many closeups. There were no audiences present for either of these recordings.

Marriner conducts Stravinsky's Pulcinella in a recording made for television in 1983, staged by Heinz Soperli for the Basle Ballet, who developed Pulcinella as a comic ballet for his fine company, taking the original version of Diaghilev and Massine as a starting point, making some small changes in the characters and plot, which revolves about a rogue who plays tricks on amorous couples. The result is a superb balletic presentation of Stravinsky's score, which is based on early manuscripts by Pergolesi. The final scene is particularly effective, all in white and perfectly suited to Stravinsky's wonderful score. One never sees the orchestra, conductor or soloists; filming of the dancing is imaginative. Fine artificially induced 5.1 sound, but a mere 42 minutes of playing time.

It's always a pleasure to watch Karl Böhm conduct. His every movement is meaninfgul and there isn't even a suggestion of exhibitionism. On this fine DVD he leads the Vienna Philharmonic in two major works of Schubert and does so with total authority and commitment. Hugo Käch directed both, the symphony recorded in Vienna's Great Music Hall June 12-13, 1973 before an appreciative audience, the mass in Vienna's Hofburgkapelle June 28-29, 1976. Camera work is excellent except for views of the ceiling at the beginning and throughout both works. The 5.l "surround sound" well captures warm acoustics of the halls.

R.E.B. (September 2006)