NHK

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 and Schumann Piano Concerto

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 and Schumann Piano Concerto. Bernard Haitink conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2009. Murray Perahia is the piano soloist. The title is the first effort by NHK to produce an HDVD of Western classical music with performers who have no special connection to Japan. The front cover is in English. But the rest of the disc is in Japanese. There are extras with persons speaking in English, but only Japanese subtitles are provided. So this disc is not aimed at the world market, but just for domestic consumption in Japan. Released 2009, the sound on the title was recorded with 96kHz/24-bit sound sampling, and the disc has 5.0 LPCM output. Grade: A+ for both the Schumann Piano Concerto and the Bruckner Symphony No. 9.

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Berlioz Symphonie fantastique and Mahler Symphony No. 1 ("Titan")

Berlioz Symphonie fantastique and Mahler Symphony No. 1 ("Titan"). Seiji Ozawa conducts the Saito Kinen Orchestra (Saito Memorial Festival Orchestra). The Berlioz was recorded at the 2007 Festival; the Mahler was recorded in 2008. Released in 2009, this title has 5.0 PCM 96kHz/24 bit sound. About 99% of the printed material with this disc is in Japanese. If you don't know that language, it's a humbling experience to navigate your way through the titles and extras, but you can do it. Grade: A- for Symphonie fantastique Grade: A+ for Mahler Symphony No. 1

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Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 ("Pathétique"). Seiji Ozawa conducts the Berliner Philharmoniker in Berlin in a disc aimed at the Japanese market (there's a little English on the keep case and the disc menu). This title has not been distributed in Europe or the U.S. It's probably the first HDVD recordings made with 96 kHz/24 bit sound-sampling technology. Directed by Goro Kobayashi; produced by Setsu Mikumo; technical manager was Oleg Anton; video engineer was André Schumann; sound engineer was Felix Kundt, recording engineer was Rainer Höpfner.  Released  2008, disc has 50 minutes of music and 5.0 PCM sound. Grade: A+

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Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sommernachtstraum

Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No. 1 and Sommernachtstraum or Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Seiji Ozawa conducts a 20th-year anniversary concert of his Japanese Mito Chamber Orchestra in 2009 at the Mito Art Tower. Yu Kosuge is the piano soloist. For A Midsummer Night's Dream, the orchestra is joined by soprano Akiko Nakajima, mezzo Katherine Rohrer,  ladies of the Tokyo Opera Singers (Chorus master: Masanori Mikawa), and narrator Yukiyoshi Ozawa (Seiji's son, an actor). There is also an 8-minute bonus of the Bach Air on the G String from the Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major. The information in the collector's booklet is 99+% in Japanese, but there are nice subtitles in English on the disc. This title was recorded with 96kHz/24 bit sound sampling on all tracks. The disc has 5.0 PCM sound output. Grade: A+ for both performances.

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Mozart Symphony No. 35 & Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1

Mozart Symphony No. 35 & Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1.  In 2012 Seiji Ozawa conducted the Mito Chamber Orchestra in Mito, Japan at the Art Tower Mito (ATM). The program was:

1. Mozart Divertimento in D major K.136
2. Haydn Cello Concerto No.1 withsoloist Dai Miyata
3. Mozart Symphony No. 35 "Haffner"

Released 2012, disc has for all tracks: (1) Stereo 2.0 PCM 96kHz/24bit (2) 5.0 PCM 96kHz/24bit and (3) 5.0 Dolby Digital 48kHz sound (thanks to Zoltan Glied for a tip on this). Video Directors were Goro Kobayashi and Masami Utsimi; Technical Directors were Kiyotaka Aoki and Satoru Fukuda; Switcher was Hiroshi Minegishi;  Camera by Fumio Saito; Sound by Ryota Ono; Video Engineer was Shoichiro Ogawa. Grade: A+

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Die Walküre

Wagner Die Walküre to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2011 by Guy Cassiers at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Stars Simon O’Neill, John Tomlinson, Vitalij Kowaljow, Waltraud Meier, Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova, Danielle Halbwachs, Carola Höhn, Ivonne Fuchs, Anaik Morel, Susan Foster, Leann Sandel-Pantaleo, Nicole Piccolomini, Simone Schröder, Guro Schia, and Vebjørn Sundby. Set design by Guy Cassiers and Enrico Bagnoli; lighting by Enrico Bagnoli; costume design by Tim van Steenbergen; choreography by Csilla Lakatos; dramaturgy by Michael Philip Steinberg and Erwin Jans; video design by Arjen Klerkx and Kurt D’Haeseleer. Sung in German. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. It appears this NHK title is currently being marketed only in Japan, but this later Arthaus Die Walküre seems to be from the same production, though not the same performance. Grade: NA

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Das Rheingold

Wagner Das Rheingold. Directed 2010 by Guy Cassiers at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Stars René Pape, Jan Buchwald, Marco Jentzsch, Stephan Rügamer, Joannes Martin Kränzle, Wolfgang Ablinger-Speerhacke, Kwangchul Youn, Timo Riihonen, Doris Soffel, Anna Samuil, Anna Larsson, Aga Mikolaj, Maria Gortsevskaya, and Marina Prudenskaya. Daniel Barenboim conducts the Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala and the Dancers of the Eastman Ballet Company Antwerp. Sets designed by Guy Cassiers and Enrico Bagnoli; lighting by Enrico Bagnoli; costume design by Tim van Steenbergen; choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui; video designs by Arjen Klerkx and Kurt D'Haeseleer; directed for TV by Emanuele Garofalo. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. It appears this NHK title is currently being marketed only in Japan; ArtHaus has published this for western markets. Grade: NA

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Takemitsu From me flows what you call time and Shostakovitch Symphony No. 5

Takemitsu From me flows what you call time and Shostakovitch Symphony No. 5. Yutaka Sado conducts his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in 2011 at the Berlin Philharmonie.  The Takemitsu piece features the entire percussion section of the Philharmoniker:  Raphael Haeger, Simon Rössler, Franz Schindlbeck, and Jan Schlichte with Wieland Welzel (one of the timpani players). Directed by Michael Beyer; produced by Grete Liffers. This disc may be  restricted to Region A. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+ for the Takemitsu  Grade: C+ for the Shostakovich

This was a special performance to raise relief funds for the people of Japan following the earthquakes and tsunami of March 2011. We already published a review of the EuroArts version of this title, and the grades shown here come from EuroArts review. Please refer to that review for more information.

This Japanese market version of the title appears from product descriptions on the Internet to have  exactly the same music as that published by Euroarts. The difference would be, of course, other artwork and 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 NHK. So this would not be one of the audiophile recordings we have been enjoying from NHK.

To order this you can go to www.amazon.co.jp and seek ASIN B0053NV5JE. 

My Way of Life

Tōru Takemitsu My Way of Life staged concert spectacular or performance art work. Directed 2005 by Peter Mussbach at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan Main Hall. Stars Dwayne Croft (Old Hag), Christine Oesterlein (Old Woman), Georgette Dee (Actress), Mélanie Fouché (Girl), Karen Rettinghaus (Girl), Kifu Mitsuhashi (Shakuhachi), Yukio Tanaka (Biwa), Yasunori Yamaguchi (Percussion), and Daisuke Suzuki (Guitar). Kent Nagano conducts the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Tokyo Opera Singers. Set design by Erich Wonder; costumes by Eiko Ishioka; lighting by Alexander Koppelmann. We don't know who to credit for the filming of this.

This is a 2 disc set. Disc 1 is the HDVD recording of the performance. It has 5.1 PCM (48kHz/16 bit) and 5.1 Dolby Digital (48kHz/16 bit) surround sound. Disc 2 is a DVD with an extremely detailed and  valuable documentary about Takemitsu's life and the making of Disc 1.

This was published in 2010, primarily for the Japanese market. But the disc menus and the box booklet have enough English text for an English-speaking person to navigate and enjoy the production. Oddly, when the characters sing or speak in Japanese or French, there are English subtitles. But when they use English, it's assumed that the English speaking viewer can understand and the subtitles are in Japanese only. But understanding the English being sung in such a strange setting as this is quite difficult and frustrating. If the viewer commands neither Japanese nor English, this production will most likely remain a closed book. Grade: B+


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Seiji Ozawa 75th Anniversary Box Set

Seiji Ozawa 75th Anniversary Box Set. This set has 5 Blu-ray jewel boxes:

1. Brahms Symphony No. 2 & Shostakovich Symphony No. 5. This is a superb HDVD that you can buy separately. We graded both titles A+ elsewhere on this site.

2. Janáček Cunning Little Vixen. This is a nice HDVD that you can buy separately. We graded it B+ elsewhere on this site.

3. The Last Don Quixote. Mstislav Rostropovich and Seiji Ozawa playing Strauss's Don Quixote. This is a complicated two disc set. Disc 2 is the main show---a performance (43 minutes) of Don Quixote from 2002 with the Saito Kinen Orchestra. This performance has decent video and was recorded with 5.0 PCM 96 kHz/24 bit surround sound. Disc 1 is a strange mixed bag. It has a 1 hour, 15 minute documentary, with good video and 5.0 PCM 96 kHz/24 bit surround sound, about the Don Quixote recording. The documentary includes rehearsal video with a lot of personal information about Rostropovich. The documentary also has a fanciful Don Quixote movie (43 minutes) that illustrates the Cervantes story as told by Strauss in the tone poem. Then follows a 1995 concert with Rostropovich and the NHK Orchestra playing the Dvořák Concerto for Cello. This performance has remarkable good video but there is only stereo sound (which is quite good).

4. Beethoven Symphony No. 7/Mahler Symphony No. 9. This disc has material shot in 1989 & 2002 and does not meet our standards for an HDVD.

5. Extras Disc. This disc doesn't have an NSBS catalog number like the other disc packages because its just extras, including two short tutorials about western music from Ozawa & trailers for NHK HDVDs. This is all in Japanese with no subtitles. Some material is in SD & stereo. The value of this part of the set is nil for Japanese speakers and 0 for westerners.

So we can sum up the boxed set as follows: it has two fine titles (1 & 2 above) you can buy separately and an odd title (3 above) with a lot of material about the  Strauss Don Quixote plus a recording of the Dvořák Concerto for Cello. Then there are two jewel boxes (4 & 5 above) you can throw away. 

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The Cunning Little Vixen

 

Leoš Janáček The Cunning Little Vixen opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2008 by Laurent Pelly at the Matsumoto Performing Arts Center in Japan as part of the Saito Kinen Festival. Stars singers Isabel Bayrakdarian (Vixen), Quinn Kelsey (Forester), Judith Christin (Wife/Owl), Dennis Petersen (School Master/Mosquito), Kevin Langan (Parson/Badger), Dale Travis (Poacher), Lauren Curnow (Fox), Tomo Matsubara (Pasek, the Innkeeper), Yayoi Masuda (Innkeeper's Wife), Marie Lenormand (Lapak, the Dog), Mayumi Kuroki (The Cock/Jay), and Mayumi Makino (Woodpecker). Stars dancers Jo Kanamori, Shintaro O-ue, Masahiro Yanagimoto, Shintaro Hirahara, Minoru Harata, Yoshimitsu Kushida, Sawako Iseki, Kaori Terasaka, Natsumi Tokoro, Erina Yamai, Harumi Takeuchi, and Ayako Nakano. Also stars the Tokyo Opera Singers and the SKF Matsumoto Children's Chorus. Seiji Ozawa conducts the Saito Kinen Orchestra. Costumes by Laurent Pelly; set by Barbara de Limburg Stirum; lighting by Peter van Praet; choreographed by Lionel Hoche. This title is also available as part of the Seiji Ozawa 75th Anniversary Box Set. Released 2010, disc has 5.0 PCM sound.   Grade: B+

In 2018, we couldn't find this on the Japanese Amazon website, and we are unsure if it is still available new at retail anywhere. This opera has been recorded many times. There are many YouTube clips, but we haven't found one that we can connect to this production in Japan. However, this was a co-production with Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, and the show was recorded in 2009 at the Maggio Musicale with many of the same opera singers that appeared in Japan. The Maggio Musicale production was published by Arthaus in Blu-ray in 2013, and it is still in print at this time.