Ideale Audience

Strauss Metamorphosen, Strauss Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme & Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major.

Strauss & Ravel Concert. Vladimir Jurowski conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in 2009 in the Richard Strauss Metamorphosen and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Hélène Grimaud joins as soloist in the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major. TV direction by Louise Narboni; produced by Pierre-Martin Juban. Released 2010, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grades: A- for the Ravel and B- for the two Strauss pieces.

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St. Matthew Passion

Bach St. Matthew Passion oratorio. The video recording was directed 2011 by Louise Narboni at the Basilica Cathedral Saint-Denis, Paris. Solosist are Werner Güra (Evangelist), Stephen Morscheck (Jesus), Lucy Crowe (soprano), Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), Matthew Brook (bass) and Bertrand Grunenwald (bass). John Nelson conducts the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, and the Maîtrise de Paris. Includes a 52-minute documentary extra called John Nelson's Saint Matthew Passion---The Journey, also directed by Narboni, as well as information about Soli Deo Gloria. Released 2014, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. 

The 43-person Orchestre de Chambre de Paris (Paris Chamber Orchestra) is a leading French chamber group. The current President of the orchestra is Brigitte Lefèvre, who is also the Director of the Paris Opera Ballet. John Nelson is currently Honorary Music Director of the orchestra. The Schola Cantorum of Oxford is a famous 30-person chamber choir directed by James Burton, most of the members of which are college students at Oxford. The Maîtrise de Paris is a famous French choir for young women directed by Patrick Marco.

Soli Deo Gloria, a U.S. charity that promotes sacred music performances and recordings all over the world, recruited all these forces. Assuming the artists got enough rehearsal time, the result could be a fabulous performance and recording. Grade: NA

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Chopin Piano Concertos 1 & 2


This Chopin concert program has the following music:

  • The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra plays Bajka (Fairy Tale) byStanisław Moniuszko.
  • Garrick Ohlsson plays the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1
  •  Ohlsson plays the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2
  •  Ohlsson plays as encore the Chopin Mazurka in C sharp minor (Op. 50 No.3)

In addition, the disc has a 53-minute documentary, The Art of Chopin: A Film by Gérald Caillat.

 Antoni Wit conducts all the live music in 2009 with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra at the Warsaw Philharmonic Hall. The concert was directed for TV by Sébastian Glas; photography was directed by Thierry Houlette; sound was recorded and edited by Andrzej Sasin. Gérald Caillat wrote and directed the documentary. Hélène Le Cœur produced both the concert and the documentary. Released 1011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C+

Let's start with comments that apply to the entire live performance. Thanks to Andrzej Sasin, sound quality throughout is competitive with most of the better HDVDs coming out now (other than audiophile recordings from publishers like NHK and AIX). Picture quality, however, is sub-par with poor resolution, a grainy appearance, color balance making folks look a bit too pink, and some motion artifacts. But what really drags this title down is amateurish video content, which we will discuss in detail.

Bajka (Fairy Tale)

We have commented often on our standards for a good HDVD of a symphony performance. The basic idea is to use the power of high-definition cameras to make video images showing much or all of the orchestra and to move in for close-up shots only when there are good reasons. This gives the viewer an experience similar to a spectator at a live performance enhanced with a reasonable number of close-up shots. You can't do this with low-resolution DVD pictures. DVDs therefore tend to present a long string of cuts from one close-up to another in a manner often reminiscent of a cartoon chase. Too often the TV director shoots a DVD and it gets published also as an HDVD because the producer doesn't know how an HDVD should look. When this happens,  we will call it to your attention.

The Bajka video is pure DVD. In about 14 minutes there are 155 cuts (that's a lot of action). There are 47 shots of the conductor and 26 close-up shots of instruments only---typical DVD fare. Most of the rest of the show is a  series of back-and-forth views from the conductor to the ghostly instruments, to soloists, or to small groups of players.  No attention is given to sections in the orchestra. There are only a few attempts to show most or a substantial part of the band. Most of these shots are from the side showing the backs of many musicians.

Because the action is so fast paced, the cameramen don't have time to set up their shots well. There's an astonishing number of shots with framing, focus, and field-of-focus issues. See for examples :41 where the camera is too low. In :53, 5:06, and 5:21 see framing and focus problems. At 5:34 the only person in focus is not playing while all the persons playing are out-of-focus.  The most dumbfounding shots are 2:02, 2:21, and 2:30 where the center of attention is the back of a music stand. All this video mayhem taxes the viewers' minds and interferes with appreciation of the music. The grade for this Bajka segment, were we to give one, would have to be a F.

Piano Concerto No. 1

This is another pure DVD. There were only 3 brief efforts during this concerto to show the whole orchestra, and at least of them is ruined because the camera was too low. There are a few part-orchestra shots, mostly made from the side showing the backs of many players. We noted only one effort to shoot any strings as a section. Then there is a flabbergasting 295 shots of the soloist (sometimes with 2 or 3 different views in one keyboard run). There are way too many shots of the conductor (many made over the backs of the orchestra). The conductor shots are used as a hub with spokes out to solos, ghost instruments without visible players, and small groups of musicians. There are many views with gross framing, focus, and field-of-focus errors; see examples at 17:10, 25:09, 25:12, 25:30, 20:31, 29:37, 42:43, 53:28. At 23:12 and 23:31 there were even shots of the conductor's belly.

All this is a bit of a tragedy because Ohlsson's performance is so smooth, elegant, and flawless. He is more animated than  and more graceful than Barenboim in their recent HDVD readings of Concerto No. 1.

Piano Concerto No. 2

The video content on this track is pretty much the same as on the recording of Concerto No. 1. There is no whole-orchestra shot at all. The pace of cuts is somewhat slowed, but there is still way too much going on to distract the viewer.

The Art of Chopin: A Film by Gérald Caillat

This is a pleasant presentation of Chopin's career with tons of legacy and modern footage of Ohlsson and other famous pianists chopining. It adds something of value to this otherwise disappointing disc.

Let's sum up.  It's sad that we now have 3 HDVDs of the Chopin concertos, but none of the discs do justice to the artists who performed. Now that we have high-definition TV, we have the ability to produce wonderful new video recordings. But the industry must learn how to use the high-definition cameras properly and leave behind bad DVD habits.

Both Ohlson performances had the potential for A+grades. But bad PQ and miserable video content knock this disc down two grades. The nice documentary offsets the total-loss Bajka number. So weI wind up with the grade of C+.

Alas, so many YT clips: so few worth watching.

Glenn Gould: Hereafter

Glenn Gould: Hereafter documentary. This is a motion picture film, directed by Bruno Monsaingeon, about the legendary Gould. According to the release announcement, it "synthesizes an incredible wealth of archival material" and is made "as if narrated by Gould himself." Released in 2009, it has 5.0 dts-HD sound. This was the first HDVD documentary about a fine-art subject. Grade: B+

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The Cunning Little Vixen

Leoš Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2008 by André Engel with the Opéra national de Paris at the Opéra Bastille. Stars Elena Tsallagova (Vixen), Jukka Rasilainen (Forester), Michèle Lagrange (Wife/Owl), David Kuebler (Schoolmaster), Roland Bracht (Parson), Paul Gay (Vagrant), and Hannah Esther Minutillo (Fox). Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Orchestra of the Opéra national de Paris, the Choir of the Opéra national de Paris, and the Childrens' Choir of the Opéra national de Paris (Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine). The Chorus Master was Alessandro Di Stefano. Stage design by Nicky Rieti; costumes by Elizabeth Neumuller; choreography by Françoise Grès; lighting by André Diot; dramaturgy by Dominique Muller. Directed for TV by Don Kent. Released 2009,  disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B

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