A LIFE IN MUSIC & • Kurt Masur, cond; Harald Schmidt (narr, voc1); Middle German RCh Leipzig ;2 Leipzig Gewandhaus O • EUROARTS 2056328 (DVD: 49:49) Live: Leipzig 6/15,16/2007
NICOLAI The Merry Wives of Windsor: Overture. MONIUSZKO Halka:Read moreMazurka. BRAHMS Liebesliederwalzer, op. 52: Excerpts.2 DVO?ÁK Slavonic Dance in e, op. 72/2. TCHAIKOVSKY Capriccio italien. BERNSTEIN West Side Story: Mambo! GERSHWIN Porgy and Bess: Excerpts.1 DUKAS The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. BIZET Carmen: Prélude. JOBIM The Girl from Ipanema
& Film: Kurt Masur is awarded the Leipzig Mendelssohn Prize for his life‘s work.
In a sense, Kurt Masur taught me the Beethoven symphonies. Only in the sense that it was his (first) Leipzig interpretations that I received one Christmas in a super-heavy nine-LP box (which included complete Overtures). Whatever the shortcomings, some of these performances became benchmarks (notably the Fourth). As a man, Masur commands the greatest respect for the humanitarian activities for which he is famed. Respect is surely due, also, for showing such devotion to Leipzig, a town to which he seemed wedded for so long. London appearances have brought much joy, including a memorable concert performance of Fidelio (quite some years ago now) and a Shostakovich Seventh with the New York PO on tour at the Barbican Centre.
This is the film of the Leipzig Anniversary Gala that took place in June 2007 to celebrate Masur’s 80th birthday. Fitting that it took place with the Gewandhaus Orchestra, which had Masur at the helm for 35 years. The occasion was hosted by the silver-tongued, infinitely slick Harald Schmidt (who also provides a Gershwin solo). Once is enough for the commentary AND interview (although Masur’s comments are always enlightening and interesting), but there are treasures galore in the music itself.
Masur is not readily associated with operetta, so it comes as a surprise to see the Nicolai kicking things off. Yet there is a Mendelssohnian lightness about it all that clarifies the decision. The slower phrases have a natural swell to them. It is a pleasure to watch the interaction between Masur and his players, for they read his every move with almost telepathic skill. Orchestral balance is clearly the result of much rehearsal. I enjoyed this performance as much as my cherished HMV Karajan (with the Berlin PO, now on EMI 76901). Masur is perhaps more human, the affection stemming from the fact that Nicolai was, as he puts it, “my beginning” (in Halle, when he was 22 years old).
Good to see some Moniuszko here. One tends to hear only the Mazurka from Halka, and indeed that is what we have here, in a freshly minted account, full of vim and youth. For those who wish to explore further, I recommend wholeheartedly the Dux DVD of the complete opera (Wroc?aw, 2005: Dux 9538). The chorus for the Brahms is the superb Mitteldeutschen Radio Choir, which sings with definition at speed, and with much joy. The Slavonic Dance that follows without a break is astonishingly expressive. Gorgeous from all angles, this is the perfect coupling. Masur’s gesture at the end, a sort of cross between a kiss and a salute, says it all.
Miraculously, Masur avoids any sense of bombast in the Tchaikovsky. The acoustic is quite resonant, which suits this well. The look on Masur’s face when the oboe enters is worth the price of the DVD alone. The young, nimble trumpeter is also worth a mention.
The move over to the U.S.A. for Bernstein and Gershwin is, of course, in recognition of Masur’s New York years. If the Bernstein is detectably a touch careful, the orchestral treatment of “Oh, I can’t sit down” is wonderfully idiomatic. I wish Harald Schmidt had stuck to comparing, though. His rendition of “There’s a boat dat’s leavin’ soon for New York” is frankly painful, both to listen to and to watch.
Infinitely better is the Dukas, with its held-breath opening and Masur’s masterful presentation of the structural logic and integrity of Dukas’s masterpiece while characterizing the minutiae with a virtuoso puppeteer’s skill. The standing ovation comes as no surprise; the Bizet encore is pure sparkle. What is a surprise is the final item, The Girl from Ipanema, “a gift from Rio,” as Masur puts it. The arrangement is suave and sparkling, and uncredited. Everyone has a ball, though.
Although the host is subtitled (English-only) throughout the concert, subtitles are not available for the DVD extra, the presentation of the Leipzig Mendelssohn Prize. A great shame, but the fact remains that Masur’s achievements are there for all to see in the main body of the program. A remarkable memento.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 anamorphic
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: German, English
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 89 mins Read less
The girl from Ipanemaby Antonio Carlos Jobim Conductor:
Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Period: 20th Century Written: 1963; Brazil
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
one word: ExellentDecember 9, 2014By hannelore m. (huntsville, AL)See All My Reviews"Born and brought up in Leipzig as a youngster, I was pleasantly surprised what a great Gewandhaus and Orchestra this city has.The Gala Concert and Kurt Masur were excellent.I am so glad that I have found this DVD."Report Abuse