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Mozart: Violin Concerto no 5; Dvorak: Symphony no 9 / Karajan, Menuhin [Blu-ray]

Karajan,Herbert Von / Menuhin / Bpo / Vso
Release Date: 11/16/2010 
Label:  C Major   Catalog #: 704104  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartAntonín Dvorák
Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony OrchestraBerlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

In Rehearsal and Performance
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

In Rehearsal and Performance
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Yehudi Menuhin, violin
Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Antonín Dvo?ák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, "From the New World"
(Rehearsal and Performance)

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Recorded in 1966.

Filmed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Read more /> Bonus:
- Herbert von Karajan in conversation with Yehudi Menuhin (on Mozart, in English) and Prof. Joachim Kaiser (on Dvo?ák, in German)

Picture format: 1080p 4:3 B/W (mastered from an HD source, original filmed in 35mm)
Sound format: PCM Stereo / PCM Mono (rehearsal)
Subtitles: English (Kaiser interview) / German (Menuhin interview)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 69 mins (performance) + 38 mins (rehearsal)
No. of Discs: 1 (BD25)

Total Playing Time: 01:47:00

R E V I E W:


MOZART Violin Concerto No. 5 in A 1. DVO?ÁK Symphony No. 9 2 Herbert von Karajan, cond; 1 Vienna S; 2 Berlin PO; 1 Yehudi Menuhin (vn) C MAJOR 704104 (Blu-ray: 107:00)

French director Henri-Georges Clouzot is probably best remembered for Diabolique and Wages of Fear ; but in the mid 1960s, he worked with Herbert von Karajan on a series of films for television. They created five of them before the partnership collapsed, apparently due to conflict in artistic temperament—and two of the series are offered here. Since those days, of course, concert video performances have become increasingly common, and one might therefore expect these early efforts to be on the primitive and unsophisticated side. They’re not—although, even apart from the lack of color, the mono sound, and the 4:3 aspect ratio, they are quite different from what we’re liable to get today. In particular, they’re much more patient in their video flow: Shots tend to be longer, pans slower, and images more studied. Of course, as in just about any contemporary video of an orchestral concert, the camera tends to follow the music’s primary lines. But especially in the Dvo?ák, you sense that Clouzot is as interested in visual composition as he is in the musical argument.

Besides offering formal aesthetic beauty, the films also remind us of the special character of the fabled chemistry between Karajan and his orchestras, especially the Berlin Philharmonic. Two points stand out in particular. First, whatever the polish of the performances, it does not come from any eye contact. Even when his eyes are open (which is not that often), Karajan is generally looking down; and in the Mozart, his detachment from Menuhin is palpable. This withdrawal into himself is, of course, part of Karajan’s mythology. Still, if you know his work primarily from audio recordings, seeing his refusal to see is quite striking: While he’s obviously a man who likes to be watched, his eyes give nothing in return. Second, whatever the emotional expressivity of the orchestra members, it is not manifest from their body language. Barenboim’s recent video of the Brahms First with today’s Berlin Philharmonic shows a group of players whose physical connection to the music is readily apparent; here, in contrast, everyone is tightly buttoned up.

Yet the performances are undeniably both polished and expressive, largely without the mannerisms that doom so many of Karajan’s later performances. Neither performance has much grit—but neither has been fully homogenized, either, and both succeed in evoking involvement as well as admiration. Granted, the Mozart is, by contemporary standards, on the ripe side, but it’s rarely gluey—and the mystical account of the slow movement is quite magical. (For a less sympathetic response, see Lynn René Bayley’s review of the DVD version, Fanfare 34:4.) And except in the rather heavy reading of the third movement, the vastly pumped-up ensemble in the Dvo?ák (horns, trumpets, and woodwinds doubled, and with an extra trombone thrown in for good measure) shows both dexterity and an astonishing level of cohesion. The slow movement is haunting without a trace of sentimentality, and we’re treated to a thrilling ride through the finale.

Visual quality is excellent, and the sound is good for the vintage. The extras include, among other things, an embarrassingly awkward conversation between Karajan and Menuhin. Not, perhaps, the year’s most vital release—but one that’s strongly recommended both for admirers of these artists and for those who have forgotten (or never knew) just how good they could be in their prime.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 5 in A major, K 219 "Turkish" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Yehudi Menuhin (Violin)
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1775 
Notes: Rehearsal and performance.  
Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178 "From the New World" by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; USA 
Notes: Rehearsal and performance. 

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