I'm so grateful for EuroArts Blu-rays that perfectly capture exceptional orchestral performances most of us would otherwise never have the chance to experience, much less re-experience. Just how difficult it is to achieve this level of perfection is evident when you watch a Blu-ray like the one of Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos.4-6 [Blu-ray]. No matter how stellar the performance is, when the visual quality and direction are inferior (as they are on that disc), the magic is lost and you might as well be listening to a CD.
EuroArts' sources don't always get it right either. For example, inconsistent camerawork mars Achucarro & Rattle: Nights in The Gardens of Spain [Blu-ray]. It's amazing, though, how often EuroArts is able to capture lightning in a bottle -- providing what I consider a fully immersive experience of a definitive performance. Two of my favorite discs fall in this category: Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition & Borodin: Symphony No. 2 [Blu-ray] (the thrilling concluding segment is demo quality and what I show to convert friends over to Blu-ray), and Schumann: Symphony No. 4 - Piano Concerto - featuring Martha Argerich and Riccardo Chailly [Blu-ray].
Now I have a third: "Fellini, Jazz & Co.," with the Berlin Philharmonic, arguably the world's best orchestra, letting its hair down a bit under the baton of the great Riccardo Chailly. It's glorious fun, and this Blu-ray gives you a ticket to the party.
Shostakovich is not a favorite of mine, but the Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra (derived from his film scores) is a revelation. It's immensely enjoyable from start to finish. Same is true of Rota's "La Strada" Ballet Suite.
That's followed by Respighi's "Fountains of Rome" and "Pines of Rome" (my main reasons for buying this disc). Admittedly, these popular works have been done to death, but I never tire of them, and I'd put this performance up against any other. It's the one I'll keep coming back to. The only drawback is that a baby's wailing reaches the orchestra's microphones in the hushed final moments of "Fountains of Rome." That comes with the territory -- this was recorded at a summer concert in Berlin's huge Waldbuhne amphitheatre, which seats more than 20,000.
The evening ends with several orchestral bon-bons by Shostakovich, Respighi and Lincke.
It's a totally satisfying experience -- brilliant performances of beautiful popular and lesser-known works, seamless camerawork and direction, and ideal sound. I did notice a couple of apparent digital "hiccups" in the otherwise pristine HD capture -- the last one occurs at 1:42:37 (it was evident on both of my Blu-ray players) -- but they go by in a flash and are hardly noteworthy.
At the end of the disc, I'm sure you'll be tempted to rise and applaud with the audience before it heads off, invigorated, into the Berlin night.