RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G. PROKOFIEV: Suites 1 and 2 from Romeo and Juliet. SHOSTAKOVICH: Festive Overture, Op. 96. CHOPIN: Mazurka in C, Op. 24 No. 2.
Martha Argerich, piano; Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orch/Yuri Temirkanov, cond.
EUROARTS DVD 2057898 TT: 80 min.

WAGNER: The Ring Without Words
Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Lorin Maazel, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2057604 )(Blu Ray) TT: 83 min. + 5 min. bonus

MENOTTI: Der Konsul
Eberhard Waechter (John Sorel); Melitta Muszely (Magda Sorel); Res Fischer (Mother); Willy Ferenz (Police Agent); Gloria Lane (Secretary); Friedrich Nidetzky (Kofner). Ljuba Welitsch (Italian Woman.)Hilde Konetzni (Vera Boronel); László Szemere (Magician); Vienna Volksoper Orch/Franz Bauyer-Theussi, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101 525 TT: 99 min. + 4 min. bonus

A concert is given each year as an honor to the Nobel Laureates. December 8, 2009 the concert featured the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov with Martha Argerich as soloist. Ravel's G major concerto has long been associated with the pianist. She recorded it in 1967 with Claudio Abbado, in 1998 with Charles Dutoit, and a 1995 performance with Gary Bertini on the podium has just been issued. All are brilliant performances, but this DVD gives us the opportunity to watch the magic happen. As an encore, Argerich gives a gentle performance of the mazurka listed above. Temirkanov begins the program with a spectacular performance of the flamboyant Shostakovich overture, and ends it with music from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. In both the Swedish orchestra is in top form. Video and audio are excellent.

In 1987 Lorin Maazel and the Berlin Philharmonic made a Telarc recording of the conductor's adaptation of music from Wagner's Ring into a lengthy symphonic synthesis. Now we have this video of the same music recorded in Berlin's Philharmonie October 17-18, 2000. All of the major orchestral interludes are included, some truncated a bit. The Berlin Philharmonic plays magnificently, particularly the brass section! Video gives us the expected close ups of important solos with uncommon clarity, and audio quality is outstanding. I doubt this recording, made a dozen years ago, is true surround sound, but what is heard is totally satisfying. This is a wonderful issue, to which I will return often. Also included is a 5-minute interview with the conductor.

Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul, considered to be Menotti's finest opera, had its premiere in March 1950 in Philadelphia, followed by successful performances in New York on Broadway, England, and other European opera centers. It won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1950 and that year's New York Drama Critics Circle award for Best Musical. The plot is about the political dissident John Sorel and his wife Magda who are trying to leave the country but cannot gets visas because of political bureaucracy. Because of constant and frustrating delays, the necessary papers could not be obtained, John is captured, his mother and child die, and Magda kills herself. This is a 1963 German studio production directed by Rudolph Cartier, with appropriately dark sets by Robert Posnik. The cast is superb in every way. Although Melitta Muszely doesn't match the vocal splendor of Eileen Farrell's recording of the big Act III aria, she impresses as the doomed heroine. Of particular interest is that three lesser roles are sung by legendary singers of the past: Ljuba Welitsch, the Salome of the 40's and early 50's, is the Italian woman. Hilde Konetzni, known for her Wagner and Strauss in major European opera houses, is Vera Boronel. In the opera both of them are trying unsuccessfully to get visas. Res Fischer, one of the truly great German contraltos, who also sang much Strauss (Klytäemnestra, Herodias, The Nurse), sings the role of the Mother. The Secretary is magnificently sung by Gloria Lane, American soprano who sang in the original production. Video and audio (mono) are excellent for the era, and subtitles are in four languages. A very brief interview in German with Menotti adds little to this production; just as he begins to discuss The Consul, the interview abruptly stops. There are several other fine recordings of The Consul, particularly the VAI video of a 1960 TV production with Patricia Neway as Magda.

R.E.B. (January 2010)