Gala Concert---300 Years of St. Petersburg

Gala Concert---300 Years of St. Petersburg.  Stars Anna Netrebko (soprano), Dimitri Hvorostovsky (baritone), Mischa Maisky (cello), Elisso Virsaladze (piano), and Viktor Tretyakov (violin). Yuri Temirkanov and Nikolai Alekseev direct the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Directed for TV by Michael Beyer. Works performed are:

1. Shostakovich: Festive Overture

2. Saint-Saëns: Introduction & Rondo capriccioso

3. Ravel:  Concerto for the Left Hand for Piano and Orchestra

4. Tschaikovsky:  "Polonaise" from Eugene Onegin

5. Donizetti:  "Regnava nel silenzio" from Lucia di Lammermoor

6. Puccini:  "Quando men vo" from La Bohème

7. Tschaikovsky:  "Vy tak pechalny . . .Ya vas lyublyu" from Pique Dame

8. Verdi:  "O Carlo, ascolta" from Don Carlo

9. Respighi:  "Adagio con variazioni"

10. Bruch:  "Kol Nidrei"

11. Leoncavallo:  "Nedda!" - "Silvio! A quest' ora" from Pagliacci

12. Rachmaninov:  "Fanfare"

Released  2009, disc has 5.1 PCM sound. Grade: C

Although this concert (previously issued as a DVD) was shot in HD in a brightly illuminated hall, the picture seems soft and slightly washed out or hazy. At one point some SD material got into the mix. I feelthe sound quality is a throwback to DVD days. For example, at the beginning of the Ravel Concerto for the Left Hand, there is a video shot of the basses playing softly. But on my system, I don't hear the big violins at all. Later, there are close-ups of the snare drum in action, but the drum sounds like it is being played outside the building. The art work on the jewel box is pitifully amateurish.  The splash screen on the disc is crude.

A mediocre engineering job could be overlooked if the music on the disc were great. But, alas, I couldn't get excited about the content either. This was not a gala entertaining art patrons (where champagne music is all you want). This event (there were at least two performances) was to honour the people of St. Petersburg, and the people of St. Petersburg were there. These are people who in our times have suffered two world wars, a siege that cost a million lives, the greatest political terror in history, and a lost century. And what did the citizens of the Hero City---this city of sacrifice---get to assuage their pain? A festive overture, a fanfare, a one-hand piano concerto, Musetta's Waltz, and a duet from The Clowns. Those were the worst offenders. Anna Netrebko was still thin and unbelievable pretty in 2003. But she was dressed for the wrong kind of gala with a cocktail gown cut to the waist. Maybe this is what was bothering her as she struggled through her assignment. Finally, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, strong and serene, stepped in to briefly turn the tide. His Yeletsky's aria (Pique Dame) and Death of Rodrigo (Don Carlo) were to me the only numbers on the program worthy of the people in attendance. Mischa Maisky came in first runner up with his heartfelt, warm cello renditions, but the effect was blunted for me by the gaudy jewelry he insists on wearing. This record was well-received in its DVD version. But in HDVD you can see and hear what's really going on: this event was a missed opportunity and a flop. Unless you have some special reason, I don't know why you would want to relive it.