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

October 15. We are getting again into symphony titles and the existential issue of DVDitis. I just posted a story on a Mahler 2 recording at the Gewandhaus that might be considered DOA from the dread plague.

I recently put up a story about the 3rd version (!) of the same Giselle production published by Opus Arte. I recently posted a story about the Ekman Midsummer Night's Dream ballet (which has nothing to do with Shakespeare). I also just posted two stories about Shakespeare's The Tempest. The first is a definitive stage play version by the RSC. The second is an updated review of The Tempest movie staring Helen Mirren as Prospera (the female version of Prospero). The movie is streamlined - try it first. Then move on to the RSC "real deal", which is probably the best The Tempest ever made for home viewing.

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Entries in American Bach Soloists (1)

Monday
Jun052017

Messiah

Handel Messiah oratorio to libretto by Charles Jennens (Foundling Hospital Version, 1753). (The actual title of the recording is Handel's Messiah in Grace Cathedral, but we are indexing it simply as Messiah.) Performed Dec. 18 & 19, 2014 by the American Bach Soloists and the American Bach Choir at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco under the baton of Jeffrey Thomas. Stars Mary Wilson (soprano), Eric Jurenas (countertenor), Kyle Stegall (tenor), Jesse Blumberg (baritone), and John Thiessen (trumpet).  Stage direction by Philip Daley; the audio recording was produced by Chris Landen; directed for video by Frank Zamacona; produced by Abigal McKee with Don Scott Carpender as Executive Producer.  Released in 2016, the disc has a 5.1 dts-HD sound file that was recorded with 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling as well as surround and stereo files recorded at 48kHz/24-bit.  Grade:  B-

This title is available through the American Bach Soloists website (see link below) or Amazon stores. At least one Amazon customer has reported that the disc plays only on Region A machines even though it is labeled ABC.

American Bach Soloists now has 3 audio discs for sale. This is apparently the only video American Bach Soloists has produced. It's available in DVD as well as Blu-ray. Frank Zamacona is perhaps the most experienced videographer of fine-arts productions now working on the West Coast of the United States. But the dark and cramped venue doubtless presented many difficulties for him while working (probably) with a tiny budget.  This title is perhaps something of an experiment for the producers. But we know that even small operations can publish amazing things. See, for example, the wonderful HDVDs we have from Priory (a small British label specializing in church music) featuring wonderful organs in ancient British cathedrals.

Next below is a whole-orchestra (WO) shot of the American Bach Soloists:

The modest orchestra has 25 strings (14 violins, 4 violas, 4 cellos, 3 dbl. basses), 6 winds (2 oboes, 2 bassoons, and two trumpets), and 3 percussion (small organ, harpsichord, and timpani). The choir of 36 has 11 sopranos, 10 altos, 8 tenors, and 7 basses. There's no room for the choir as a block, so it is divided by the altar. Today we are used to hearing Messiah performed by much larger forces. But Handel's original concerts probably used even fewer performers than we see here.

As the full title of the recording suggests, this is a video of the Cathedral as well as of a musical performance.  About 20% of all the video clips show the church instead of musicians. At least 29 artworks (named in credits at the end of the video) are highlighted.

Unfortunately, the picture quality is not crisp, and color balance seems a bit on the sour side. We accept the assertion that this was shot in 1080i video. We think the soft resolution and weak color are caused by poor lighting and arduous working conditions in the church. Still, viewers may get the impression that it is an “upconverted” DVD!

The audio is very good: detailed, with good instrumental clarity and presence, and a nice bloom (without excessive echo) thanks to the acoustic properties of Grace Cathedral.

Now let's see some screenshots. First below are  2 nice shots of the interior of the Cathedral:

Next below is a closer view of the altar above:

And here is some detail from the altar:

The cathedral also has curtain art and lovely relief pieces. Keep in mind this is California, and not, say Germany, with its incredible treasures of religious art treasures from the Middle Ages. First we see the curtain art from the perspective of a typical visitor:

 

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