A Fascinating Document of Solti Rehearsing
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 11/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD contains extensive rehearsal sequences followed by concert performances of the pieces rehearsed--Wagner's Overture to 'Tannhäuser' and the 'Rákóczi March' ('Hungarian March') from Berlioz' 'Damnation of Faust.' These rehearsals were taped for Süddeutscher Rundfunk Stuttgart in 1966 and 1968 and are in black and white. The sound is reasonably good and the camerawork is excellent. The orchestra is that of the South German Radio (Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart), a second-tier orchestra but one which obviously knows intimately the music in question. Consequently the rehearsal process is that of Solti impressing upon his musicians his conception of the pieces and then seeing those ideas taking shape. It is fascinating to see, up close, Solti's kinetic conducting style, his intimate knowledge of the score, his running commentary to the orchestra as they are playing large chunks of the pieces in rehearsal. He takes especial care to get rhythmic precision and subtle dynamic gradations. His comments are generally encouraging as well as instructive, although occasionally a little irritation shows when he doesn't get what he's asking for. What is fascinating is to see his conception taking shape before our very eyes/ears. For instance, he instructs the superb principal clarinetist on how he wants the seductive Venus theme in the Tannhäuser Overture to go (singing in his croaking 'conductor's voice') and one hears the effect on the clarinet's playing--it immediately becomes more beguiling. I'm not sure who this DVD is intended for. I, for one, have always been fascinated by the rehearsal process and have been a spectator at more orchestral rehearsals than I can count. I suspect there may be others like me who don't have a professional interest in the process but who nonetheless find the behind-the-scenes aspects instructive and entertaining. I can certainly imagine young conductors and conducting students finding much to learn here. The rehearsals are conducted entirely in the Hungarian Solti's excellent German, but there are quite good English subtitles--whoever did them did a terrific job including spot on translations of somewhat esoteric German musical terminology--and there are French and Spanish subtitle options as well. There is, in this series from Süddeutscher Rundfunk, a DVD of rehearsals by Sergiu Celibidache as well. In it he rehearses Bruckner's Mass in F with his own Munich Philharmonic and soloists Margaret Price, Doris Soffel, Peter Straka, Matthias Hölle and Hans Sotin. I haven't seen it but expect it would be equally fascinating.Scott Morrison"
A Master at work
J. H. Gaulard | London United Kingdom | 01/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Karajan used to say that the mark of a talented conductor was not to draw a good performance from the Vienna Philharmonic - a lot of people could actually do it considering how good this orchestra is - but rather to grow a third-tier orchestra into a second-tier orchestra.
Without being insulting to the very decent Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, it is fair to say that Solti's work in the course of the rehearsal work is pretty remarkable. Always energetic, very precise and professional, Solti manages to improve the quality of his instrument without having to raise his voice or interrupt the orchestra too much. He tends to give his instructions while the orchestra is playing, which tends to be more relaxing and efficient for the players - this is what I have been told by musician friends. Unsurprisingly, in the two pieces rehearsed by Solti here (Tannhauser overture and Berlioz's Hungarian march), the conductor will search for an acute sense of contrast, but contrary to common belief, he is also very lyrical - look at the time he spends with the woodwinds or with the strings in the "Venus" section of the Tannhauser...
The only regret is that the RSO Stuttgart is not at its best during the Tannhauser performance per se - the orchestra actually plays better in the second half of the rehearsal, once the "Solti mould" has impacted the accuracy and rythmic capability of the orchestra, but who cares: this is a very important document.