BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 5 in B flat
Leonard Bernstein championed Beethoven's Fidelio and its message, reflected in this famous 1978 Vienna State Opera performance. He has a superb cast and leads an impassioned performance. A month later, DGG recorded the opera in studio sessions, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau replacing Hans Helm. Fine though that recording is, it doesn't match the intensity and commitment heard in this definitive live performance. The Vienna State Opera Orchestra (Vienna Philharmonic) is magnificent. I've never heard the Leonore Overture No. 3, played here before the opera's finale, played more incandescently—the audience responds with a huge ovation, and rightfully so. Günther Schneider-Siemssen's sets and Leo Bee's costumes are totally appropriate. Otto Schenk's production and video direction are all one could ask. Full, rich sound, although hardly 5.1 surround. If Fidelio is one of your favorite operas, you must have this. A superb issue and a welcome addition to the DVD catalog!
Rossini's Tancredi,his seventh opera, premiered at La Fenice in 1813 and was a success right from the start., It's based on Voltaire's Tancrède, which takes place in the Sicilian city of Syracuse. The title character is the son of the city's deposed king. Tancredi is in love with Amenaide, daughter of the current king, who loves him but is promised to someone else for political reasons. There are two versions of the opera's ending, one happy, the other tragic; the latter is heard on this DVD. The role of Tancredi is written for a mezzo who, in the first act, sings one of Rossini's more memorable tunes, Di tanti papiti. In spite of its initial success, Tandredi fell into neglect until it was revived about 1950 for Marilyn Horne who recorded it for Columbia. This DVD offers a production created for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, filmed October 21, 2005 at the Teatro Comunale in Florence. Stage direction is by Pier Luigi Pizzi who also designed costumes and the rather stark sets. The cast is uniformly strong, although Daniela Barcellona cannot approach Marilyn Horne's remarkable singing of the role. Excellent sound (stereo, not 5.1) and video quality mark this release, and surtitles in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian assist in following the plot's intricacies.
The Cleveland Orchestra under their music director, Franz Welser-Möst performed Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 in the Stiftsbasilika St. Florian during the Linz Bruckner Festival, September 12-13, 2006. This DVD offers a compilation of those performances which, according to the conductor, many of the Orchestra's members felt was "the absolute climax of their musical career." This church is where Bruckner received his musical training as a choir-boy starting in 1837, and for many years he was organist there. A "bonus" is a conversation with the conductor in which he discusses Bruckner's music, and its importance to him. I'm sure we hear this performance of Bruckner's symphony better than anyone in the highly resonant narrow church. It is a tribute to the sound engineers that the sound is as clear as it is, although still quite bass heavy. Camera work is excellent. My benchmark for this symphony is the incredible performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Eugen Jochum December 4, 1986, the penultimate concert the distinguished conductor and Bruckner specialist gave with the Dutch orchestra (see REVIEW). He used 11 additional brass instruments in the final pages, with glorious effect. But that is, unfortunately, not a DVD. Don't overlook the superb video with Günter Wand and the NDR Orchestra recorded in 1998 (see REVIEW).
R.E.B. (March 2007)