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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Entries in Belvedere (5)

Tuesday
Jan232018

Brahms Cycle 

Brahms Cycle Box Set with most of Brahms' famous symphonic works performed in three recording venues The works are split onto three discs, each with its own keepcase booklet:

Disc One (Severance Hall, Cleveland):
     Academic Festival Overture
     Violin Concerto
     Symphony No. 4 

Disc Two:
     Symphony No. 1 (The Royal Albert Hall, London)   
     Symphony No. 2 (Musikverein Golden Hall, Vienna)
     Symphony No. 3 (Musikverein Golden Hall, Vienna)

Disc Three (Severance Hall, Cleveland):
     Variations on a Theme by Haydn (Choral St. Antoni)
     Piano Concerto No. 1
     Tragic Overture
     Piano Concerto No. 2

Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra. Yefim Bronfman plays the piano and Julia Fischer is the violin soloist. All the music was recorded in 2014 and 2015. There is a bonus with Franz Welser-Möst and Julia Fischer discussing the Violin Concerto.  Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. We don't grade the box. See links below to to the 3 individual titles for grades on the major works, which range from A to D+!

Recently we have seen a trend of publishers packaging 3 or more previously independently-released discs into box sets (Opus Arte has been a leader in this). Here we have the opposite: In 2015, Belvedere published this Brahms Cycle box set; in 2017-2018, Belvedere published each of the 3 individually. So for complete information, follow the links below:

Disc 1, with the Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 4

Disc 2, with Symphonies 1-3

Disc 3, with Piano Concertos No. 1 and No. 2

Tuesday
Jan232018

Brahms Violin Concerto

Brahms Violin Concerto and Symphony No. 4 concert. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2014 at Severance Hall, Cleveland. The disc also includes Brahms Academic Festival Overture. Julia Fischer is the violin soloist. This disc also is available as part of a box set with Brahms' most famous symphonic works. Audio Producer Elaine Mortone; TV Director William Cosel; Producer Herbert G. Kloiber. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: For the Violin Concerto: A   For Symphony No. 4: D-  (The Academic Festival Overture is not reviewed.)

Brahms Violin Concerto

Here's a shot of the whole orchestra (WO) in warm-up before Julia Fischer comes out. It's great to have a chance early to see where all the musicians are sitting. The resolution, however, is only good --- not the best:

The concerto is beginning and we get yet another WO view of the various sections - how nice!

And now a part orchestra (PO) shot with a closer view of the cellos and basses:

Julia Fischer had been an A level violin soloist for over a decade when she made this recording. She was also a concert pianist who could play most of the famous piano concertos (usually with top student orchestras or other special groups). Finally, she was a professor teaching at the university level in Munich.  A busy lady, she still had the energy to find Brahms' passion lurking within his classical concerto form. Following are 2 "realistic" shots of Fischer as soloist:

Next below is a "non-realistic" shot. This is not a view a member of the audience could have, so we deem it to be of lower value than the realistic images:

 

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Tuesday
Jan232018

Brahms Symphonies 1-3

Brahms Symphonies 1-3. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall, London (Symphony No. 1) and at the Musikverein Golden Hall, Vienna (Symphonies 2 and 3). This disc is also available as part of a box set with Brahms' most famous symphonic works. TV Director was Jonathan Haswell (Symphony 1) and Brian Large (Symphonies 2 and 3); Producer was Herbert G. Kloiber. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: For Symphony No. 1 B-   For Symphonies 2 and 3: B

Symphony No. 1 at the Proms

Richard Osborne, writing in the January 2016 Gramophone at page 29, approved of the Welser-Möst interpretation of Brahms S1 and the sound recording, which he deemed better than all the other audio recordings made in Cleveland or Vienna and included in the Belvedere Brahms Cycle Box. We will accept Osborne's opinions on this as coming from on high.

Our humble comments will focus on the video. First we note that Severance Hall in Cleveland and the Golden Hall in Vienna are among the most beautiful music venues on earth. Alas, the bulbous Royal Albert Hall in London is one of  the ugliest. Moving a big orchestra in, setting up, and escaping the RAH in the middle of the annual Proms marathon must be among the most challenging logistical tasks undertaken since the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  This probably explains why many of the images shown below make me think of a battlefield. Or, at least, I think that making a video at the Proms must be quite a battle.

There isn't a good whole-orchestra (WO) orientation shot for this Brahms S1. The two weaker WO shots shown first below combine to let the home audience viewer see where the various sections are seated:

Now we have the violin sections:

And below is a good shot of the double-bass section:

 All the woodwinds:

 

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Tuesday
Jan232018

Brahms Piano Concertos Nos. 1 - 2

Brahms Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in 2015 at Severance Hall, Cleveland. Yefim Bronfman is the Piano soloist. The disc also includes Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn and Tragic Overture. This disc is available as part of a box set with Brahms' most famous symphonic works. Audio Producer was Christoph Claßen; TV Director was William Cosel; Producer was Herbert G. Kloiber. Released 2017, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

The two piano concertos included in this title are nearly the same length and have the same video director; after viewing both a few times, we've determined that reviewing just Piano Concert No. 1 in depth will give the reader enough information about the overall quality of the title. (We don't grade the Variations and the Tragic Overture.)

Lets start with a whole-orchestra shot. The lighting is warm and the resolution is fine. It's nice to see the layout of the orchestra and the architecture of Severance Hall:

Severence Hall is equiped with a remarkable crane that's mounted close to the left-front of the stage.  This allows for sweeping aerial shots:

There are several nice shots of parts of sections throughout the recording. Here we see some violins:

Below is a nice group shot of some woodwinds:

One of the oddest quirks of this title are 22 directly-overhead shots of the piano or the piano and orchestra (probably made also from the crane). We wouldn't mind showing the angle next below once or twice --- the viewer can see how the large Severance Hall stage allows the orchestra to spread out. These overhead angles may be what critic Richard Osborne called "inconsistent and eccentric video direction" (January 2016 Gramophone at page 29). We brand these overhead angles as low-value gimmicks:

And next below is an overhead shot of Bronfman, which which we also count as unrealistic (meaning that it's not a shot that an audience member could see) and low-value:

 

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Monday
Apr252016

Dvořák Symphony No. 9 and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition

Dvořák Symphony No. 9 and Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition concert. In 2014 Mariss Jansons conducts the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: Help!

Please help us with a comment or review of this title.