Titles by Category

Here's news about high-definition video disc ("HDVD") recordings of opera, ballet, classical music, plays, fine-art documentaries, and paintings. In the journal below are independent (and hard-to-find critical) reports on hundreds of HDVDs. Pick the best titles for your excelsisphere.

Feb 11.  Finally we have a good grade (A-) to brag about for the new Don Quixote from the Vienna State Ballet.  Recently we posted a F+ grade for the new C Major Bruckner Symphony 3 and an F- grade for that C Major Mahler S1-10 Box performed by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra. How can a major publishing house turn out something that gets an F-?

We recently posted more than you wanted to know about that Brahms Cycle Box from Belvedere. Now you can buy the 3 discs in the box independently. We bunched the 4 different deals together near the top of the Journal.

We just updated our manifesto about the best ballet and dance videos.

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Wednesday
Sep072011

Elektra

Richard Strauss Elektra opera to libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Directed 2005 by Martin Kušej at Opernhaus Zürich. Stars Eva Johansson, Marjana Lipovšek, Melanie Diener, Rudolf Schasching, Aldred Muff, Reinhard Mayr, Cassandra McConnell, Christine Zoller, Andreas Winkler, Morgan Moody, Margaret Chalker, Kismara Pessatti, Katharina Peetz, Irène Friedli, Liuba Chuchrova, Sen Guo, Martina Weingärtner, Thomas Bäuml, Gerhard Hänfling, and Baila Brasil Show. Christoph von Dohnányi conducts the Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House, the Chorus of the Zurich Opera House (Chorus Master: Ernst Raffelsberger), and the Zurich Opera House Extras Association. Sets by Rolf Glittenberg; costumes by Heidi Hackl; lighting by Jürgen Hoffmann; dramaturgy by Regula Rapp and Ronny Dietrich; directed for TV by Feliz Breisach.  Released 2009, disc has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.  Grade: C+

NB: This title has been rereleased by Arthaus Musik with different artwork.

This is a Martin Kušej psycho/whacko version of Elektra.  Kušej stars off by building a stage within the stage, expressing, I think, the psychological repressions and constrictions explored in the Orestes myth. The decadence that has fallen on the House of Agamemnon is expressed in a goofy lumpy floor (which was a serious obstacle course for everyone onstage), numerous actors (especially girls) running around in various stages of undress, and props like handcuffs and whips.  The constant frantic actions and distractions interfere with the drama and singing. Something causes the recording of the singers to be strangely muffled (maybe echoes caused by the stage within the stage); and the voices are too often drowned out by the orchestra.

Poor Eva Johansson as Electra appears as a bleached blond in with dark hair roots showing. She's directed to ceaselessly move about overacting. At one point she almost falls down on the wicked terrain. No wonder her diction starts to collapse about half way through this this baptism of fire. She makes silly faces; and when she curses Chrysothemis ("Sei verflucht!" ) she is forced to stare cross-eyed into the camera. She bravely soldiers on. Finally, her aria "Orest" (Track 20) proves how movingly she can sing when allowed to do so. The other cast members are pretty much  overshadowed by the chaos of the production.

Kušej's last surprise is his happy ending. He follows the libretto by including a dance of celebration. Of course, the dancers are not ancient Greeks, but Vegas-style exhibitionists in full show-girl plumage. Alas, they have no idea what they are doing, at least not on that floor,  and Strauss did not know how to write samba. Once the dancers stumble off stage, you wait for Elektra's death. But Kušej keeps her alive. This contradicts the libretto, but is probably closer  to the Greek myth than the death Hofmannsthal writes for Elektra. At curtain call, Christoph von Dohnányi seems embarrassed to come on stage, but tries to be a good sport. Well, I'm sure there are folks who prefer the Kušej approach; but to be fair to all our readers, I give  this show the grade of "C+." 

Wednesday
Sep072011

Elektra

Richard Strauss Elektra opera to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Directed 2010 by Nikolaus Lehnhoff at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Iréne Theorin, Waltraud Meier, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Robert Gambill, René Pape, Oliver Zwarg, Benjamin Hulett, Josef Stangl, Orla Boylan, Maria Radner, Martina Mikelić, Stephanie Atanasov, Eva Leitner, Anita Watson, Arina Holecek, and Bardara Reiter. Daniele Gatti conducts the Wiener Philharmoniker and the Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (Chorus Master Thomas Lang). Sets by Raimund Bauer; scenic cooperation by Daniel Dooner; costumes by Andrea Schmidt-Futterer, lighting by Duane Schuler; video by Martin Kern; choreography by Denni Sayers; directed for TV by Thomas Grimm. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade B+

It's 2011, and we already have a psycho/whacko version of Elektra from the Zurich Opera, graded C+, and a minimalist version from the Baden-Baden Festival graded A+. So how does this Salzburg Festival show stack up? It's a worthy production with an impressive set, good direction, fine acting, and an interesting endgame.

The minor characters at Salzburg were cast with better singers than at Baden-Baden. But Linda Watson at Baden-Baden beats Iréne Theorin at Salzburg in both singing ability and especially in German diction. As time passes, Theorin's German falls apart like that dress mentioned in the libretto that is "consumed by moths." That makes a big difference in this opera, which has a powerful and distinguished libretto.

To me, the next most important role after Electra is that of Chrysothemis. I fall in love with Manuela Uhl singing Chrysothemis at Baden-Baden; at the end I desperately want her to survive and thrive. But although Eva-Maria Westbroek is a great singer, I don't feel sympathy for her Chrysothemis in this Salzburg production.  Westbroek has strong stage presence that prevents her from seeming vulnerable. And she was also directed to register hysteria, which makes her seem more like a nuisance than a victim. In her defense, Lehndorf may have directed Westbroek this way because of the bitter ending Lehnhoff has in store for Chrysothemis.

Klytämnestra is the other important female role in this opera. Waltraud Meier does a workman-like job in all departments as Klytämnestra. But I think Jane Herschel in the Baden-Baden recording is the most distinguished Klytämnestra that we now have in HDVD.

Lehnhoff has an especially pessimistic take on the end of the Strauss Elektra. As soon as Electra dies and Orest claims the throne, the furies appear threatening both Orest and Chrysothemis. True, in the myth Orest had serious legal problems following his matricide, but he was eventually acquitted after a harrowing trial. But I question whether the myth states that Chrysothemis will also be a victim of the curse on the house of Agamemnon.

Finally, I think the orchestra and the chorus was slightly better recorded and reproduced at Baden-Baden than at Salzburg.  So I wind up with the grade of B+ for subject title. If you can only afford one Elektra, get the one with Linda Watson. If you're especially interested in Strauss, there should be room on you shelf for this Salzburg version as well.

Special Note: There are two sets of ordering buttons below. The 1st set is to order this title at regular price.  2nd set of buttons is to take advantage of a special bargain discount Arthaus has offered for some time to buy this title with a bonus feature advertising many of their other  HDVDs. You will want to buy the bargain disc if it is still available!

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Wednesday
Sep072011

Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 and Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez

2011 Europakonzert:  Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 and Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez. Also includes España by Emmanuel Chabrier. Played at the Teatro Real in Madrid on May 1, 2011. This was the traditional Europakonzert performed on May 1 each year by the Berlin Philharmoniker in a special venue, usually in a different European city. Sir Simon Rattle conducts. Guitarist Cañizares is soloist. Directed for TV by Rhodri Huw. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound.   For the Rodrigo Grade: A  For the Rachmaninov Grade: Help!

Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of this title.

 

Wednesday
Sep072011

Turandot

Puccini Turandot opera to libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Directed  by Franco Zeffirelli 2010 at the Verona Arena Festival.  Stars Maria Guleghina, Carlo Bosi, Luiz-Octavio Faria, Salvatore Licitra, Tamar Iveri, Leonardo López Linares, Gianluca Bocchino, Saverio Fiore, Giuliano Pelizon, and Angel Harkatz Kaufman. Giuliano Carella conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona (Chorus Master Giovanni Andreoli) and the Coro di voci bianche A. LI.VE [Children's Chorus of the Lyric Academy of Verona](Chorus direction by Giuliano Carella). Set design by Franco Zeffirelli; costume design by Emi Wada; choreography by Maria Grazia Garofoli; lighting design by Paolo Mazzon; directed for TV by Andy Sommer. Released  2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: D

This production has Maria Guleghina as Turandot (she is the star in all three Turandot productions we now have in HDVD!) heading up a fine cast with an excellent orchestra and conductor. They have license to use the same staging and designs by Franco Zeffirelli that have become at the N. Y. Met the literal and figurative "gold standard" for the ultimate opulent opera extravaganza. The show was no doubt quite exciting to the thousands in the arena watching this on a warm August evening.  But what do we get from this in HDVD? Alas, an embarrassing mess.

There are three big problems with putting this on for HDVD in the Verona arena.

1.   The stage. The normal opera stage is a box with depth in pleasing proportion to its width. This box is surrounded by hidden spaces to the sides and fly spaces above and below which allow quick changes of scenery. The orchestra is substantially hidden in a pit in front of and under the stage.  But in the Verona arena, there is one wide, shallow, almost "U" shaped stage that surrounds the exposed (large) orchestra. The palace of the emperor has to be elevated over the masses of common folk. This is achieved by building crude-looking scaffolds from exposed timbers and planks that are ugly and probably unpleasant for the cast to negotiate. This wholesale distortion of the stage from the norm cripples all of the famous Zeffirelli directing and choreography for the stars and supporting masses of commoners, executioners, court officials, and attendants. If you know the Met version of this, you will sense the pain the Verona restaging director (name unknown) and cast must have felt as they tried to make this show look like Zeffirelli.

2. Designs that look good to 10,000 people in an arena often look ridiculous close up. The boy monks are wearing shower caps. The emperor's long beard is hung on his face by a sturdy twine passing over his ear and his mike is sticking out next to that.  The executioner's sword appears to be made of cardboard. The headdresses worn by Ping, Pong, and Pang seem to be made with springs designed to make these characters look as silly as possible.  And surely there's a costume shop somewhere in Italy where you can rent for the Prince of Persia a decent severed head.

3. Miked sound. The post-production folks were unable to prevent numerous instances of bad balance of the singing and the orchestra. This is probably always a daunting task in a normal opera house. The miked singers and blaring loudspeakers in the arena probably make it far harder to get the balance right for the listener in a home theater.

So what grade does this title earn? We already have two "A"  versions of Turandot. Why should anyone buy this recording when the Met has just released the real (Zeffirelli) thing on Decca? Nobody, I submit,  unless he has a special reason such as the desire to own the excellent Tamar Iveri rendition of Liù. I could imagine that the girl friend of Angel Harkatz Kaufman (the silent role of the Prince of Persia still with this head) would want to buy this title and show if off to her buddies. And I bought it because I buy everything. So with so few customers, our grading system leads me to assign the grade of "D" to this title. 

Thursday
Aug252011

Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci

"Cav and Pag" opera double feature directed 2009 by Grischa Asagaroff at the Zurich Opera House.

1. First plays the Pietro Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana to libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzeti and Guido Menasci. Stars José Cura, Paoletta Marrocu, Liliana Nikiteanu, Irène Friedli, and Cheyne Davidson.

2. Then follows the Ruggero Leoncavallo Pagliacci to libretto by the composer. Stars José Cura, Fiorenza Cedolins, Carlo Guelfi, Gabriel Bermúdez, and Boiko Zvetanov.

Stefano Ranzani conducts the Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Master Jürg Hämmerli) of the Zurich Opera. Set design by Luigi Perego; lighting by Hans-Rudolf Kunz; directed for TV by Nele Münchmeyer.  Released 2010, disc has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. For both operas Grade: B

The Zurich Opera Cav and Pag is  a decent production, but I think it remains in the shadow of the Teatro Real Madrid Cav and Pag. Director Grischa Asagaroff uses the same set and conventional (but updated) mise-en-scène for both operas. He plays Cav first, followed by the Prologue and the two acts of Pag. (This is the normal order, of course; but since Cav and Pag are now Siamese twins, I prefer opening the whole evening with the Pag Prologue as done by del Monaco in the Teatro Real version.)

In Cav, Marrocu as Santussa has a terrific confrontation scene with her Turiddu; but otherwise Marrocu tends to overact and her voice is only barely strong enough for this tough role. Cura has great physical presence, but his voice in this production sounds thin and strained. The design will appeal to traditionalists, but I think the folks in the chorus look too sophisticated and prosperous to be settling scores with six-inch knives. On the other hand, the dts-HD Master Audio sound on this disc is exceptionally good.

Cura sings lead tenor in Pag also. He is a natural comic, and he is able to play a convincing drunk. The problem, alas, is that there is nothing funny or bumbling about Canio's lethal behavior. So I think Cura was misdirected in this production and that the misdirection is also evident in the confusing and unconvincing portrayal of the play within the play at the end of the opera. 

To sum up, I give both operas in this title a "B" grade, and I recommend this version to unyielding traditionalists and those whose seek the best sound available. Others will probably be happier with the Teatro Real version.

Special Note: There are two sets of ordering buttons below. The 1st set is to order this title at its regular price.  The 2nd set of buttons is to take advantage of a special bargain price Arthaus is starting to offer for this title with a bonus sampler advertising many of their other HDVDs. You will want to buy the bargain disc when it's available!

Regular Price:

Bargain Price:

Thursday
Aug252011

Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci

"Cav and Pag" opera double feature directed by Giancarlo del Monaco 2007 at the Madrid Teatro Real.

1. First plays the Pietro Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana to libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzeti and Guido Menasci. Stars Violeta Urmana, Vincenzo La Scola, Dragana Jugovic, Viorica Cortez, and Marco di Felice.

2. Then follows the Ruggero Leoncavallo Pagliacci to libretto by the composer. Stars Vladimir Galouzine, María Bayo, Carlo Guelfi, Antonio Gandía, and Ángel Ódena.

Jesús López Cobos conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real. Set design by Johannes Leiacker; costumes by Birgit Wentsch; lighting by Wolfgang von Zoubek; television direction by Ángel Ruis Ramirez. This is a single disc, released in 2009, with 5.1 PCM sound. For both operas, Grade: A

Henry McFadyen Jr and Gordon Smith originally gave an "A" grade to this Cav and Pag. But the OperaDou jury graded it "B" later. Following our usual rule, we give the title the higher of the grades.

Please help us by writing a comment that we can place here as a mini-review of either or both of the operas in this title.

Thursday
Aug252011

Carmen (von Otter)

Georges Bizet Carmen opera to libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. Directed 2002 by David McVicar at Glyndebourne. Stars Anne Sophie von Otter, Marcus Haddock, Hans Voschezang, Lisa Milne, Jonathan Best, Mary Hegarty, Christine Rice, Anthony Wise, Laurent Naouri, Quentin Hayes, Colin Judson, and Franck Lopez. Philippe Jordan conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Leader Pieter Schoeman), the Glyndebourne Chorus (Chorus Master Tecwyn Evans) and the Children's Chorus of Stoke Brunswick School, East Grinstead. Set design by Michael Vale; costumes by Sue Blane; lighting by Paule Constable; choreography by Andrew George; fight scenes by Nicholas Hall; directed for TV by Sue Judd; produced for TV by Peter Maniura. Released 2008, disc has 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound. Grade: B

Anne Sofie von Otter has long been a leading soprano; if you are her fan, you should try this disc. Von Otter probably also would be impressive in this role live. But now I'm watching HDVD with all those close-ups; for this medium, she is a bit too old, too skinny, and, well, too insufficiently endowed. Marcus Haddock could probably be convincing as Don José, but only if he loses 20 pounds and goes to the gym for 3 months. At one point Haddock walks down the street on his way to the tavern. You get a long look at his flabby profile, and he doesn't much look like a soldier just sprung from the stockade. Otherwise, I liked McVicar's directing, especially his romalis (Gypsy dancing scene) at the beginning of Act II.

The Opus Arte disc of Carmen was released in the U.S. on Nov. 18, 2008. On the same day, Decca released a different Carmen starring Anna Caterina Antonacci and Jonas Kaufman. Both performances are worth watching. But if you can only buy one, the Antonacci version is distinctly the stronger.

Thursday
Aug182011

Bruckner Symphony No. 8 and Symphony No. 9

Denon has produced its first HDVD: a Bruckner Symphony No. 8 and a Bruckner Symphony No. 9 concert disc. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducts the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra. Symphony No. 8 was performed at Suntory Hall, Tokyo in 2010; Symphony No. 9 was perform there in 2009. Released 2010, disc has 48 kHz/16 bit 5.1 PCM surround sound. Grade: B / D

Western classical symphony orchestras are heirs to 600 years of music experience. The Japanese got started on this art form in earnest about 60 years ago when Hideo Saito started his Music School for Children. Now the Japanese are trying to play with the big boys. The Saito Kinen Orchestra doesn't count, because it has too many musicians from the West. But it seems there are maybe 20 western-style orchestras working now in Japan with (pretty much) all-native musicians. The Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo is one of the best of these.

So in 2009 the Yomiuri and Denon teamed up to record the Bruckner 9th Symphony, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting, in HD video and 48kHz/16 bit sound. Oh, dear! It just happened that NHK Classical also came out in 2009 with the Bruckner 9th played by the Royal Concertgebouw, Bernard Haitnink conducting, in HD video with 96kHz/24 bit sound. So we had almost simultaneous releases of the Bruckner 9th by two Japanese leaders in, as Gramophone magazine puts it, the "super audio corner."

Now comparing the 2009 Yomiuri and the Concertgebouw would be like having a football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the University of Texas Longhorns (a leading college team). A movement by movement comparison of the Yomiuri and the Concertgebouw renditions reveals how far behind the Yomiuri forces were in 2009. The Yomiuri performance was imprecise with rough woodwinds, harsh brass, intonation problems (especially in the horns and Wagner tubas), fuzziness in the strings playing pizzicato, etc. These deficiencies together with surprisingly dull sound make the Yomiuri report almost painful to listen to. Finally, the video was "grayed out" and at times almost "sepia looking." So this title can at best only earn the grade of "D." (If a Western orchestra had turned this out, the grade would have to be "F.")

But now comes the second half or our game. Just 6 months later in 2010, the Yomiuri met again to play the Bruckner 8th Symphony. In 2010 there were a lot of new faces present, including some I recognize from the Saito Kinen Orchestra (all Japanese musicians I think). Skrowaczewski is back, looking yet a bit older, but still resolute. Everybody has a second chance at this, and it's obvious from the start that they are better rehearsed and determined to improve over the 2009 disaster. All sections now play with more precision, the horns and Wagner tubas are in tune and sound as one instrument (for the most part), and the sound recording seems better. You can sense the excitement building. The 3rd movement Adagio with strings and 3 harps is gripping---this group has jumped in 6 months from D to B territory and is closing in on an A grade! After the stirring final movement, you can see the elation on the faces of all the musicians and hear it from the applause of the audience. Skrowaczewski gets called back time and again for more applause---he's 86 but he's running around grinning like a teenager. Folks, when you hear a CD, you don't get any sense of what the performance means to the musicians. But here you see it ---this was an event none of them will forget. Give it the grade of "B," and wish all the members of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra a Happy New Year!

Wednesday
Aug172011

Brahms The Violin Sonatas 

Brahms The Violin Sonatas concert. Anne-Sophie Mutter plays violin sonatas with pianist Lambert Orkis. Released in 2010, this disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

For me Brahms is like broccoli---I know it's good for me, but please pass the pizza. Nor am I a fan of the violin sonata---I usually can't hear the violin over the piano accompaniment. So what should I make of an HDVD of three violin sonatas by Brahms that totals just over 68 minutes? Well, I doubt I would relish this performance on a CD. But I found this HDVD, with it's brilliant clear video and voluptuous lossless sound, quite pleasant to experience. I may never become a Brahms groupie, but I can see why Brahms is valued so much by those who possess more mature musical taste than I.

Mutter, the essence of patrician elegance and grace, seems completely convincing to me as the violin soloist. Orkis, highly-respected as a piano accompanist and specialist, plays his part from sheet music as would be traditional for an accompanist. A reviewer on amazon.com knocked Orkis, complaining that these sonatas should be treated more like duets for violin and piano and that the piano part should be handled by an A-list solo piano player. There could be something to this. Even I can tell that the piano part in these sonatas cannot be hidden behind the soloist as background support. The role of the piano here is like that of the full orchestra in a violin concerto with a sharing of responsibility and glory. And to me it looked that Orkis sometimes might be struggling with his part, although it didn't sound like he was having difficulty.

The amazon reviewer also pointed out that the show we see is made of many spliced-together excerpts from two different performances. Of course you can't tell exactly where the splices are. But that splices have been made can be demonstrated easily by observing the two different audiences. Each audience is divided into two groups: in front of the stage is a group of about 250 folks and behind the stage is a group of about 20 in two rows of chairs. At 5:31 you get a clear shot of the front row of "Audience 1." This front row has no men with neckties. Behind the Audience 1 stage to the viewer's left is a lady whom I call "Topknot" (trust me). At 20:38 you get a clear shot of "Audience 2." Seated on the front row are two gents wearing neckties. Facing Audience 2 on the front row and to the viewer's left is a man I call "The Priest" (trust me).

Even in the first minute of the show, we see Audience 1/Topknot disappear at 00.36. Audience 2/Priest appears 2 seconds later at .38, but only to disappear in about 4 seconds at .43 so that Audience 1/Topknot may return. For another example, check out the transitions at 25:25, 25:37, and 26:10. Audience 1/Topknot yields to Audience 2/Priest, and the Audience2/Priest in turn yields to Audience 1/Topknot. There are many other similar changes throughout the disc.

Why do I bring up the subject of splicing together segments of several performances? Well, this illustrates the proposition that what you see in an HDVD is often more than just a record. The creation of an HDVD is itself as full of artistic choices as is the original production of an opera, ballet, or concert. Often what you see is not what happened at a particular time, but rather is itself a fresh work of art created by the TV director and his crew.

Wednesday
Aug172011

Brahms Violin Concerto and Dvořák Symphony No. 9 "From the New World"

2002 Europakonzert: Claudio Abbado conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2002 at the Teatro Massimo, Palermo, Sicily. This was the traditional Europakonzert performed on May 1 each year by the Berliner Philharmoniker in a special venue, usually in a different European city.  Gil Shaham is the violin soloist.

Here are the selections on this title:

1. Beethoven 'Egmont' Overture

2. Brahms Violin Concerto

3. Dvořák Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" 

4. Verdi Overture to Les Vêpres siciliennes

TV direction by Bob Coles. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grades:  For the Brahms, B+ For the Dvořák, A

[Alert: I gave these grades before we developed our positions on DVDitis. These grades would be valid only for a DVD version of this concert.]

When I saw that this title was shot in 2002, I was wary. Not many people were thinking about high-definition back then. But producer Paul Smaczny was. He saw to it that this recording would be good enough for a future HDVD. This also turned out to be quite a happy event. Italy is full of opera buildings. The Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily is an expectionally beautiful and cozy house that seems to be taller than it is long or wide with tier on tier of elegant box seats crowned by a glorious ceiling fresco. They probably don't get the Berliner Philharmoniker in Palermo every day. So there were few empty seats for this, and everybody was dressed as they would for a coronation. The orchestra seemed inspired.  The audience gave rapt attention to the relatively meaty program right up to what they were really looking foward to: the Overture to Les Vêpres siciliennes! This dramatic number is, I take it, the unofficial National Anthem of Sicily. By the time the orchestra finished, folks were on their feet  and flowers were in the air. You just can't get kind of sense of the event from a CD

I marked the Brahms Violin Concerto down to a B+ from what maybe should have been an A because I  could not hear the violin well enough. For reference, I went back to my RCA Red Seal LP of Heifetz playing the Brahms. On the LP, I could clearly hear almost all of the solo part over the orchestra. But on the HDVD, the balance was off and I often could not hear Shaham as well as I would like. I would give an A to the other selections on this disc except the Overture to Les Vêpres siciliennes, which bags an A+ because the crowd loved it so much.

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