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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Gala 'White Nights' Concert in St. PetersburgFeb. 18 2010
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
[This is the Blu-ray version of a DVD that originally was issued four years ago.]
This DVD is indeed a celebration of all that is wonderful in Russian music-making. The setting is Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg and the orchestra is one of the world's best, the St. Petersburg (formerly the Leningrad) Philharmonic. Leading it in some of the pieces is Yuri Temirkanov; other works are conducted by Nikolai Alekseev. The cast of soloists is particularly starry. Two of them - Eliso Virsaladze, piano, and Viktor Tretyakov, violin - are not particularly well-known outside Russia but they are true giants of their instruments. And rounding out the solo roster are the hot young soprano Anna Netrebko, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and cellist Mischa Maisky.
The concert opens with Shostakovich's Festive Overture. The Petersburg's deservedly acclaimed brass section shines here (as well as in the Rachmaninov Fanfare that closes the concert). This is followed by possibly the best performance I've ever heard of Saint-Saëns's Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso, played with patrician elegance (and impeccable virtuosity) by Tretyakov. Then comes Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand with titanic pianist Eliso Virsaladze as soloist. I have raved about her before in two earlier CDs and hear nothing here to alter my opinion that she is one of the great pianists currently playing. (By the way, if you want to see my earlier reviews do an Amazon search on 'Wirssaladze' as that is how her name has been transliterated on those CDs.) Her performance is wonderful but frankly the orchestral accompaniment tends to lose its focus under Alekseev (something that often happens with this concerto, alas). The double bass and contrabassoon opening, however, is sterling.
Alekseev then follows with the exciting Polonaise from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. This must be for Russians what something like Rhapsody in Blue is for Americans -- and the Russian audience ate it up.
Anna Netrebko is a stunningly beautiful woman whose acting has been praised far and wide. Her voice is a beautiful instrument but there are times when it is not under perfect control. In 'Regnava nel silenzio' from Lucia di Lammermoor her coloratura is approximate and she has no trill. But in 'Musetta's Waltz' from La Bohème, which follows, she is thrilling. Hvorostovsky follows her with Yeletsky's aria from Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame and then a stunning 'O Carlo, ascolta' (Rodrigo's death scene) from Verdi's Don Carlo. He is in fabulous voice and both arias are greeted with huge cheers as, of course, Netrebko's had been.
For me, though, the best singer of the evening is cellist Mischa Maisky. He plays Respighi's not-often-heard Adagio con variazioni, Op. 133, followed by Bruch's Kol Nidrei. Maisky's tone is huge, his intensity reminds one of Rostropovich, and I admit that watching his thick workman's hands on the cello's fingerboard evokes for me something like awe. Maisky is a great musician as well as a great cellist. It's no wonder that Martha Argerich so often chooses to play chamber music with him. I'd never seen him perform live and I expect this is as close as I'll ever come. And these performances were worth the price of admission.
The concert concludes with Netrebko and Hvorostovsky singing the Silvio/Nedda duet from Pagliacci. Again, the acting is superb; the erotic attraction they are portraying is palpable. They sing well, too. The short Rachmaninov Fanfare concludes the program and the crowd expresses its appreciation with that peculiarly Russian gesture of rhythmic clapping. This was a wonderful concert and I understand their enthusiasm.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hvorostovsky can't be beat, but there are better Blu-ray concertsFeb. 28 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm very enthusiastic about the number of high-quality Blu-rays being released of live classical concerts. Some capture exceptional performances that can hardly be equaled. That can't be said for this disc, which didn't thrill me as much as the others.
First, the video quality is not quite up to the current standard (this was captured in 2003). It's a little coarser and brief shots even appear to be SD, rather than HD.
The same is true for the sound. While certainly very good (and much better when you switch to 5.1 from the 2.0 default), it's a bit less refined than other Blu-rays I've experienced in this category recently.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky is by far the best thing about the concert -- his intense, heartfelt singing is exceptional -- and Anna Netrebko has lovely moments. Together, their performances add up to about 40 minutes of the total. How much you'll like the rest depends on how you feel about the particular performers and the works they're playing. (I'm stating the obvious, aren't I?)
In the end, it's a worthwhile disc, but not one I'm likely to revisit as often as the others in my collection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An exceptional gala event that does not disappointAug. 7 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a nicely varied programme which celebrates the current musical achievements of St. Petersburg, with the exception of ballet, to a very high level indeed.
All of the featured artists are very well known in Russia. The only one that I was unfamiliar with was the violinist, Viktor Tretyakov who takes the second spot and delivers a rhythmically taut performance of the Saint Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso. This is a strong performance and concentrates on verve and brilliance as opposed to Gallic charm. On those terms it succeeds admirably and sets the scene for Elisso Virsaladze, a pianist of formidable musicianship and technical prowess. One of her pupils was Boris Berezovsky who went on to win the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. She has also recorded a stunning recital at La Roque d'Antheron which I have reviewed elsewhere. Her performance of the Ravel concerto is typically tightly controlled where the jazz elements of the writing are allowed to communicate without interpretive interference. This would have pleased Ravel greatly who stated a preference for performers to stick to playing the music as written and to trust to the skills of the composer to write the 'interpretation' into the fabric of the composition. The orchestra are well able to deal with the very different idiomatic demands of this music.
The final instrumental soloist is Mischa Maisky whose ringing tones on the cello, as well as his considerable sensitivity, are both shown off to good advantage in the chosen pieces by Respighi and Bruch. The vocal items showcase a young Anna Netrebko on the cusp of her flowering international career plus the hugely popular Dmitri Hvorostovsky. The Donizetti and Puccini arias demonstrate Netrebko's dark tones and sparkling range admirably and the Tchaikovsky and Verdi arias suit the melifluous tones of Dmitri Hvorostovsky equally well. The two get together for a duet from Pagliacci to finish, both being on very fine form.
The orchestra has an enviable reputation as a brilliant ensemble and this has largely been the result of the work of its chief conductor, Yuri Temirkanov who takes on the opening and last items here as well as the vocal items where he watches the singers with an eagle eye similar to that of Karajan. The other items are conducted by Nilolai Alekseev who has a gentler, more rounded, visual conducting style. Yuri Temirkanov is a vastly experienced and no-nonsense style of conductor who is able to achieve very high levels of performance from the players in front of him and where they often play at an enhanced level. This is readily apparent in the Stockholm Nobel concert, reviewed elsewhere, and which is an exceptional concert. So too is this concert from a completely different point of view - that of a gala set of short pieces as opposed to a standard concert program. Despite its gala nature the whole concert still adds up to a satisfying musical total as well as a display vehicle.
The recording is astonishingly crisp visually. The sound is presented in PCM 5.1 and stereo in wide ranging sound. This, however, needs to be played at a significantly higher playback level than usual as it appears to have been recorded at a lower level than normal. At normal playback settings the concert can seem to be rather pale and lacking in substance sonically. I was initially rather disconcerted by this but simply by increasing the volume setting by several decibels the whole thing dramatically improved and the full width and depth of the sound-stage became apparent.
In my opinion this concert should give considerable pleasure in many ways to those who buy the disc. The program is varied and interesting and is all performed well. The imaging is excellent and so is the sound provided it is played back loudly enough. For these reasons it seems that 5 stars is a fair rating level for this disc.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Supreb performance in a typical nice atmosphereNov. 3 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This Bluray production is brilliant complete with crisp sounds and pictures! I highly recommend you to buy this production in Bluray for all those Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Anna Netrebko fans out there as it brings you to the concert atmosphere.
Well played but somewhat great bleeding chunks!April 11 2013
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Inevitably such concerts are great on the night and this is no exception. The overall quality of the disc both technically and artistically is excellent but I am less attracted to these "bleeding chunks" concerts than the larger works played in full. They are less repeatable - one wants the full operas, not the bleeding chunks - and the sense of occasion fades quickly. Well worth a rent and OK as a purchase if you find the program attractive and like this sort of concert.