Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Debussy La Mer/Le Martyre De Saint Sebastien/Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado|
Actors: Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Arturo Toscanini, Rodolf Kempe
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Glorious Debussy with Abbado at the Helm
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD presents a 2003 all-Debussy concert conducted by Claudio Abbado at the Lucerne Festival. Included are the Suite from 'Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien' ('The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian') and 'La Mer.' The orchestra, the so-called Lucerne Festival Orchestra, was put together especially for the Festival and the principals are primarily from the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras, and also including well-known chamber music players. Many of the section players are young musicians from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, a group that Abbado has been heavily involved with for many years. The overall quality of the orchestra is quite good. Indeed, the performance of 'Le Martyre' is truly special. It features two soprano soloists, Rachel Harnisch and Eteri Gvazava, and the fine Schweizer Kammerchor (Swiss Chamber Choir, Fritz Nf, director). This suite, taken from the enormous evening-long sacred cantata by Debussy, has some of his most delicious music and yet it is rarely performed. (In fifty years of concert-going I've only heard it once, and that was in 1957.) The concert takes place in the new (1998) and sleekly beautiful Concert Hall in Lucerne. The choir for 'Le Martyre' is seated in a balcony-like setting immediately behind the orchestra, and in the 'Laurier blessé' ('Wounded Laurel') section of the piece the important English horn part has the soloist, Emma Schied, spotlit in a second balcony behind the orchestra, an effective touch. 'La Mer' is equally effective, beautifully led by Abbado, who is one of the conductors I most enjoy watching conduct because his shaping of phrasing, tempi and dynamics is so impressively clear and so gracefully done. It doesn't hurt that he is also one of the few truly great conductors of our day.
A very nice touch at the end of the concert portion of the DVD is that not only are the usual credits given - director for TV (Michael Beyer), producer (Paul Smaczny) - but also the names of principals of the orchestra are given. And an impressive lot they are (at least for me, an inveterate orchestra groupie) including Kolja Blacher, concertmaster; Wolfram Christ, viola; the members of the Hagen Quartet as assistant principals; Natalia Gutman, cello; Alois Posch, bass; Emmanuel Pahud, flute; the immensely talented Albrecht Mayer, oboe; Sabine Meyer, clarinet; Dag Jensen, bassoon et al. Visuals are in crisp focus. There is a fair amount of camera movement but it is always subservient to the musical interest of the moment. Sound is rich and lifelike.
Also included is a documentary concerning the history of the Lucerne Festival and it is interesting for its inclusion of clips of performances featuring such conductors as Furtwängler, Karajan, Ansermet, Kempe, Kubelik, Mehta (accompanying Pinchas Zukerman in the Mendelssohn Concerto), et al. More time than is necessary is spent explaining some of the ins and outs of the Festival financing, social events associated with it, and so on, but by and large the focus is on the music.
I think the main draw here is the marvelous conducting by Abbado and the chance to hear a really quite marvelous performance of 'Le Martyre,' something we're not likely to see again soon. This is not to slight the performance of 'La Mer,' but it is an altogether more frequent visitor to concert programs.
TT=119 mins Sound: PCM Stereo, Digital Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1. Subtitles: English, French, German. The voice-over narration of the documentary is in English but appropriate subtitles are always provided for non-English interview clips.
A tribute to the genius of Debussy
Frank W. Barham | Greenbank, WA USA | 07/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though the excerpts from the rarely-heard Martyrdom of Saint Sebastien are lovely, it is the absolutely outstanding performance of La Mer that is the real drawingcard on this well-recorded and well-filmed DVD. True, the orchestra is an ad hoc group, but what a group! Sabine Meyer, principal clarinet. Natalia Gutman among the cellists. And who is that marvelous woman with the english horn? In fact, my only complaint is that the list of orchestra members at the end of the disc goes by so quickly that you can't take it all in. The camera-work does us the favor of helping us to see how Debussy wove those bewitching instrumental textures. The vocalists in the Martyrdom are new to me but fine nonetheless. This is not only a tribute to Claudio Abbado and the Lucerne Festival, but above all to Debussy's genius."