TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36.
San Francisco Symphony Orch/Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.

PUCCINI: La Bohème.
Cristina Gallardo-Domas (Mimì), Kei-Kyung Hong (Musetta); Marcelo Álvarez (Rodolfo); Roberto Servile (Marcello);Natale de Carolis (Schaunard); Giovanni Battista Parodi (Colline); Alberto Fraschina (Parpignol); Matteo Peirone (Benoit); Angelo Romero (Alcindoro); La Scala Chorus and Orch/Bruno Bartoletti, cond.
TDK DVUS-OPBOH (5.l channel) TT: 134 min. (incl. bonus Franco Zeffirelli on La Bohème)

GLAZUNOV: Raymonda (Ballet in Three Acts).
Natalya Bessertnova (Raymonda); Yuri Vasyuchenko (Jean de Brienne); Gedminas Taranda (Abderakhman); Elena Bobrova (Countess Sybille); Bolshoi Ballet Orch/Algis Zhuraitis, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 719 TT: 125 min.

Music of Johann Strauss, Johann Strauss, Jr. and Josef Strauss.

"Keeping Score" features MTT and the SFS in an analysis/performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. The first section, "The Making of a Performance," shown June 2004 on PBS, is a documentary of the music, its history, rehearsals, interviews with many members of the orchestra, and the conductor's views on the score. The second part is a concert performance of the music, a video made in the orchestra’s home base, Davies Symphony Hall. In spite of the rave quote from the San Francisco Chronicle review, I find this performance of the Fourth rather subdued, although Thomas does whip up a frenzy in the finale. The DVD also includes a narrated "graphic history" of Tchaikovsky with subtitles in German, French, Spanish, Italian and Chinese. As with all SFO 5.1 recordings, the surround sound is superb.

Filmed during performances in February 2003, this La Bohème from La Scala is an excellent presentation of Puccini's masterpiece. The cast is uniformly strong both vocally and dramatically, with Álvarez fortunately avoiding being overly histrionic in the final scene. Don't expect the vocal splendor of Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti in their TV video from San Francisco. Cristina Gallardo-Domas, unwisely chosen by Nicholas Harnoncourt for his recording of Aida, is better suited to the lesser demands of Mimi. This somewhat small-scale, detailed production directed and designed by Franco Zefferelli has been around since 1963. It was requested by Herbert von Karajan for La Scala where it has been a staple in their repertory for more than four decades, as well as being presented in other major opera houses. It's quite different from the director's grandiose production for the Met in 1982 in which he took advantage of the house's remarkable stage and technical facilities to create elaborate scenes far removed from the intimate scenario of the opera (although not as overdone as his later Met production of Turandot). The 5.1 sound is very effective, and there are sufficient tracks to find what you're looking for. An 18-minute monologue by Zefferelli covers his love of the opera, his association with Karajan, the Met production, various singers he has worked with, and the rather startling information that he doesn't read music! This "bonus" is rather poorly produced. It is in many sections separated by a black screen, almost as if the interviewer or prompter had been eliminated, replaced with a few seconds of black screen.

Raymonda is grand Russian ballet at its most spectacular. In the first act the young girl Raymonda is celebrating her birthday in grand style and her planned marriage to the knight Jean de Brienne, who must go off to war. In Act II, during festivities at the chateau, Raymonda encounters the Arab sheikh Abderahman who is in love with her and plans to abduct her. Jean de Brienne returns and the two men duel resulting in the Arab's death. The third act is a celebration of the marriage of Raymonda and Jean de Brienne, replete with many exotic oriental dances. This ballet was a favorite of Rudolf Nureyev; there is a DVD documentary of his Paris production (REVIEW), which unfortunately contains only excerpts from the ballet. Here we have the entire Raymonda in a superb Bolshoi production recorded in 1989. Produced by NHK Enterprises, the color photography is somewhat dim, but cameras are usually in the right place. The audience seemed to love the performance, but their applause/reaction is rather odd: it doesn't really seem as if many are applauding. The stereo sound is wide-range and sonorous. Recommended.

The 1989 New Year's Concert is highly entertainment, another grand occasion for the Viennese and the world, and one of the few opportunities to watch the remarkable Carlos Kleiber, who seems to be having as good a time as anyone. The surround sound, probably artificially produced, sounds great, and as a "bonus" we have the feature on Kleiber also included on his other DGG DVDs.

R.E.B. (March 2005)