IVES: Three Places in New England. SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 in A minor. WAGNER: Dawn and Siegfried's Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung
Boston Symphony Orch/Michael Tilson Thomas, cond.
ICA CLASSICS DVD ICAD 5111 TT: 104:08 (incl. 31 min. interview)

VERDI: Requiem
Dimitra Theodossiou, soprano; Sonia Ganassi, mezzo-soprano; Francsco Meli (tenor); Riccardo Zanellato (bass); Chorus and Orchestra of Parma/Yuri Temirkanov, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 96 min. + 52 min. documentary

EUROPA KONZERT - recorded in Spanish Hall, Prague Castle, March 1, 2013
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. DVORAK: Biblical Songs, Op. 99. BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 "Pastorale."
Magdalena Kozena, soprano; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Sir Simon Rattle, cond.

The Michael Tilson Thomas Boston Symphony performances are fascinating glimpses into the early career of the brilliant American conductor. These performances of Ives, Sibelius and Wagner were recorded in Boston's Symphony Hall in 1970. His association with the famed orchestra started in 1968 at Tanglewood when he was awarded the Koussevitzky Prize. Thomas was assistant conductor for William Steinberg, music director of the BSO 1969-1972. Seiji Ozawa was appointed conductor of the orchestra in 1973. Many were surprised that Thomas wasn't given that position, although MTT was to have a remarkable career, most recently with the San Francisco Symphony which he has led since 1995. These Boston performances are superb in every way, and have been very well recorded in stereo, with the camera usually in the right place. A 27-minute bonus is a 1970 Boston interview in which he discusses music on this DVD, and another brief (4:15) interview taped in London in 2013. This is a fascinating issue for those who admire the art of conducting showing one of today's major artists early in his career.

This performance of Verdi Requiem seems rather useless unless you are a fan of the Parma Opera Verdi series of all of the composer's operas. This site has reviewed many of these, and some are excellent, but the fact remains that their productions are small-scale, and few major Verdi singers participate. This Requiem was recorded October 8, 2011. Soloists are excellent but the chorus and orchestra are small—the grandeur of Verdi's masterpiece will not be found here. Audio is disappointing with little impact in the big moments. A one-hour documentary (Verdi's Backyard) about Verdi's life includes many excepts from rehearsals, a dubious bonus. There is no reason whatever to buy this, particularly on Blu Ray. Skip this one.

Ever since 1991, the Berlin Philharmonic has presented Europakonzert in a different city to celebrate the orchestra's founding in 1882 and their European heritage. The most recent concert was May 1, 2013 in the gorgeous Spanish Hall at Prague Castle, a magnificent site with countless glittering chandeliers, golden decorations, and many windows allowing the landscape to be viewed, and as it was a beautiful sunny day, there is much to look at. The audience is seated on hundreds of folding chairs. The program seems rather odd, with no large orchestral outbursts, perhaps because of the intimacy of the venue. Rattle's wife, Magdalena Kozena, sings the 10 Dvorák Biblical Songs, lovely indeed. The BPO's strings are shown to good advantage in the Vaughan Williams and Beethoven. Photography is superb, and one can even see a snapped violin bow string. Audio also is first-rage. An engaging release, indeed.

R.E.B. (November 2013)