Václav Neumann was conductor of the Czech Philharmonic for about twenty-five years and made many significant recordings with that marvelous orchestra. Here he is conducting the Stuttgart Sudfunk-Sinfonieorchester, a good but not great orchestra at the time of these recordings (1968 for the Smetana, 1969 for the Beethoven). The primary interest in this DVD is Neumann's rehearsal technique. Neumann is a perfectionist who is able to maintain a congenial (and collegial) and yet firmly instructive attitude with his musicians as they rehearse these thrice-familiar works. He makes a real effort to breath new life into these pieces and particularly in the Bartered Bride overture seems able to do that.
The DVD consists of two parts: rehearsal and then performance (before an audience) of each of the two pieces, Beethoven 'Leonore No. 3 Overture' first and then the Smetana. Unfortunately these archival films are not in the best shape and although efforts to restore them have been made there is still difficulty with jerky black-and-white video at times and only marginally acceptable mono sound. The result, then, is that this DVD will be of value primarily for people who have a particular interest in the working methods of Neumann, and given the big reputation that he still has there may be a fair number of them. I honestly don't think the casual music-lover will find this DVD of much interest. For those who have only a moderate interest in rehearsal footage there are more modern and thus more aesthetically satisfying DVDs. For instance, there is a DVD in modern video and audio featuring rehearsals by Salonen, Gardiner, Gergiev, Boulez and Von Dohnanyi also available here at Amazon.
Sound: Mono; Dialog in German with Subtitles in English, French, Spanish; Running time: 99 minutes. Region code: 0