"Sacrificium" - The Art of the Castrati
Music of Porpora, Caldara, Araia, Graun, Leo, Vinci, Broschi, Handel, and Giacomelli
Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano; Il Giardino Armonico/Giovanni Antonini, cond.
DECCA DVD B 0014039 TT: 60 min + 22 min. bonus

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39. Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. Symphony No. 5 in E flat, Op. 82. Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 105.
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
C MAJOR DVD VIDEO 702208 (2 disks) TT: 166 min.

RAVEL: Bolero. BIZET: Carmen Suite No. 1 RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez. MANGORÉ: La Ultima Cancion. GINASTERA: Malambo from Estancia. LECUONA: La Comparsa. Malaguena. SALGAN: A Don Agustin Bardi. PIAZZOLLA: Adios Nonino. Decarissimo. GARDEL: El dzeia que me quieras. RODRIGUEZ: La Cumparsita. MORES: El Firulete. LINCKE: Berliner Luft.
John Williams, guitar; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond-pianist

Cecilia Bartoli's Sacrificium was issued some months ago and reviewed on this site (REVIEW). Now we have the same program in a film by Olivier Simonnet, done on location in the magnificent Baroque Palace of Caserta in Southern Italy. Bartoli is costumed appropriately, and is seen moving through the grand halls of the palace before she joins the orchestra on a small stage. It is a grand presentation, and Bartoli's performances of this incredibly difficult music are stunning. A bonus offers the mezzo illustrating her castrato project plus a tour of the Palace, City and Caserta region. Excellent sound and video, and many will find the subtitles very handy. A super issue.

Leonard Bernstein recorded the Sibelius symphonies with the New York Philharmonic more than four decades ago, and all are available from Arkiv on special order. Bernstein intended to make a second recording of all seven both for CD and video, and this C Major 2-disk set contains the four he was able to complete before his death in October 1990. They apparently are edited from concerts in October 1986 (symphonies 2 and 7), September 1987 (No. 5), and February 1990 (No. 1). All of these have been issued on CD, but they sound better on DVD with the artificially produced 5.1 sound. These are magnificent, inspired performances, particularly No. 1. It's unfortunate they didn't include another work on DVD2; the playing time is well less than an hour. This is one of the finest Leonard Bernstein videos.

Daniel Barenboim has a long association with Latin American music; he was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. His affinity for this music is obvious in his loving performances of music listed above. Bolero is odd repertory to be included on a Latin American concert, but it is perfectly played with all of the solos immaculately played by first-desk players of the Berlin Philharmonic. A highlight is the Rodrigo concerto played magnificently by master guitarist John Williams. His encore, La Ultima Cancion, is a miracle of performance, with not a sound from the 22,000 people in the audience. Barenboim plays solo piano in several works that are gentle salon pieces, and of course, as always, the concert ends with the rousing Berliner Luft. No date is given for this concert but the copyright date is 1998. Audio and video are not quite as good as on some issues in this series of outdoor summer concerts, but it is satisfactory.

R.E.B. (June 2010)