BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8 in C minor
World Philharmonic Orch/Carlo Maria Giulini, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2051368 TT: 94 min.
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BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E
NDR Symphony Orch/Günter Wand, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW-COWAND8 TT: 69 min.
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TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35. Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture. MUSSORGSKY-RAVEL: Pictures at an Exhibition.
Itzhak Perlman, violinist; Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.
UNITEL DVD VIDEO 2072128 TT: 89 min.
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The World Philharmonic Orchestra is a large ensemble (more than 100 members), consisting of first-desk players from orchestras in 82 countries. The orchestra was founded in 1985 "to promote a message of peace and international cooperation" with the admirable intent of gathering together once a year to give a concert to benefit a designated charity. This Bruckner Symphony No. 8 was given at the Orchestra's inaugural concert December 8, 1985, recorded live at the Konserthus in Stockholm. The WPO performed for three more seasons but then closed down because of the extraordinary expenses involved in the project. In June 2006 the Orchestra was relaunched, but its future is doubtful for the same reason: money. No question that in 1985 they were a superb ensemble as evidenced by this splendid Bruckner performance, led by Giulini who had recorded the work the previous year with the Vienna Philharmonic (available in a 2-CD ArkivMusic set), and whose live Philharmonia Orchestra performance from 1983 has been issued on BBC Legends. This DVD of Giulini conducting this remarkable Bruckner symphony is an important video document, directed with taste by Aarno Cronvall, and well photographed. Sound is adequate to convey the performance, but surely not 5.1 channel.

This Bruckner Seventh is the final issue in TDK's Günter Wand Edition. These releases are of major interest to collectors as they offer extraordinary performances by an unjustly neglected conductor who at the time of this concert (August 28, 1999) was 87 ears old. Bruckner was a Wand specialty (he also recorded Symphony No. 7 with the Cologne Radio Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic), and this performance of Symphony No. 7 is among the best, beautifully played by the NDR Orchestra. Hugo Käch's direction inappropriately begins and ends the symphony with a view of what apparently is a blue sky. Aside from this, photography is fine with many closeups of Wand and orchestral players. Like other releases in the series, sound is regular stereo with no attempt to produce an artificial surround sound—but totally satisfactory.

It's always a pleasure to watch Eugene Ormandy conduct. This Euroarts release of performances recorded in the Academy of Music in 1978 (Mussorgsky) and 1979 (Tchaikovsky) gives us one of the rare opportunities to do so. Itzhak Perlman was 34 at the time of this concert and exhibits his usual perfection of style and technique in Tchaikovsky's concerto, with masterful accompaniment from Ormandy and the Philadelphians. Both Romeo and Juliet and Pictures were specialties of Ormandy and his virtuoso orchestra (he recorded Ravel's orchestration of the latter three times, twice for Columbia, once for RCA). These are brilliant performances expertly played as one would expect. 5.1 surround sound is listed as an audio option; it surely has been electronically but effectively produced—sound quality is excellent, superior to what is heard on most of their CD recordings.

R.E.B. (December 2006)

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