Titles by Category

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.

December 2. I just posted a review of the 2016 Royal Ballet Nutcracker. We have on our Alphalist a thorough rundown and grade on each of the 10 Nutcracker Blu-rays you could order for a Christmas present!

I just updated and added screenshots to the Priory title The Grand Organ of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. Finally we have reported on all 5 of the Priory organ Blu-rays. These exemplary recordings include a Blu-ray video, a DVD video, and a CD! Each of these titles has a fine program of organ music played by virtuoso musicians. In addition, there are fabulous bonus extras with information about the cathedrals, the towns where they are located, the details of each organ instrument, and a discussion of each selection that is played in the recital. Never before was so much value in recordings conveyed for such a modest price.  To see information on all these Priory titles, just go to the left navigation bar and click on "Priory" under "Titles by Publisher." Then all 5 Priory stories will be instantly produced for your enjoyment! _______________________________________________________________________________

Entries in Denon (4)

Tuesday
Jan032012

La Traviata (Fleming)

Verdi La Traviata opera to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Directed 2009 by Richard Eyre at the Royal Opera House. Stars Renée Fleming, Joseph Calleja, Thomas Hampson, Monika-Evelin Liiv, Kostas Smoriginas, Eddie Wade, and Richard Wiegold, Haoyin Xue, Sarah Pring, Neil Gillespie, Charbel Mattar, and Jonathan Coad. Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Vasko Vassilev) and the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna). Designs by Bob Crowley; lighting by Jean Kalman; movement direction by Jane Gibson; film direction by Rhodri Huw. Released 2011, disc is restricted to Region A.  Grade: A

This Japanese market version of the title appears from product descriptions on the Internet to have exactly the same music as that published by Opus Arte in 2011. The difference would be, of course, other artwork and the addition of package information written in Japanese.  It also appears that the sound on this recording, while excellent by general consumer standards, was not recorded with 96kHz/24 bit technology that is often used by Denon. So this would not be one of the audiophile recordings we have been enjoying from Denon. We give the same grade to the works on this title that we gave earlier in our review of the original Opus Arte version.

We would be happy to hear from anyone in Japan would could tell us more about this title. Here is  a link for more information:

Tuesday
Jan032012

La Bohème (Gerzmava)

Puccini La Bohème opera to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Directed 2009 by John Copley. Stars Teodor Ilincai, Hibla Gerzmava, Gabriele Viviani, Inna Dukach, Kostas Smoriginas, Jacques Imbrailo, Jeremy White, Donald Maxwell, Alan Duffield, Bryan Secombe, and Jonathan Coad. Andris Nelsons conducts The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Peter Manning), the Royal Opera Chorus (Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna), and the Tiffin Children's Chorus (Chorus Director Simon Toyne). Designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman; lighting design by John Charlton after William Bundy; film direction by Robin Lough. Released 2011, this disc in restricted to Region A. Grade: C+

This Japanese market version of the title appears from product descriptions on the Internet to have exactly the same music as that published by Opus Arte in 2010. The difference would be, of course, other artwork and the addition of package information written in Japanese.  It also appears that the sound on this recording, while excellent by general consumer standards, was not recorded with 96kHz/24 bit technology that is often used by Denon. So this would not be one of the audiophile recordings we have been enjoying from Denon. We give the same grade to the works on this title that we gave earlier in our review of the original Opus Arte version.

We would be happy to hear from anyone in Japan would could tell us more about this title. Here is  a link for more information:

Tuesday
Jan032012

Hansel and Gretel

Engelbert Humperdinck Hansel and Gretel opera to libretto by Adelheid Wette (Humperdinck's sister). Directed 2008 by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier at the Royal Opera House. Stars Angelika Kirchschlager, Diana Damrau, Elizabeth Connell, Thomas Allen, Anja Silja, Pumeza Matshikiza, and Anita Watson. Colin Davis conducts the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House (Concert Master Peter Manning) and the Tiffin Boys' Choir and Children's Chorus (Director Simon Toyne). Set design by Christian Fenouillat; costumes by Agostino Cavalca; lighting by Christophe Forey; directed for TV by Sue Judd. Released 2011, disc is restricted to Region A. Grade: B+

This Japanese market version of the title appears from product descriptions on the Internet to have exactly the same music as that published by Opus Arte in 2009. The difference would be, of course, other artwork and the addition of package information written in Japanese.  It also appears that the sound on this recording, while excellent by general consumer standards, was not recorded with 96kHz/24 bit technology that is often used by Denon. So this would not be one of the audiophile recordings we have been enjoying from Denon. We give the same grade to the works on this title that we gave earlier in our review of the original Opus Arte version.

We would be happy to hear from anyone in Japan would could tell us more about this title. Here is  a link for more information:

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!