This is a weird issue, and shows how the music industry is getting
its knickers in a twist.
On the case is a large sepia-toned picture of Jose Carreras and
emblazoned on the sleeve are the words “Jose Carreras Collection”.
To me this would suggest a DVD concentrating on the tenor and
his activities. Fans should be aware of this, as ‘our man’ appears
for under five minutes of the whole disc.
On the other hand, if one is looking for a DVD of Berlioz’s Te
Deum, this disc would normally be passed by on the shelves
because the indication of that work is in small letters at the
bottom right-hand side of the cover. Content and layout of the
cover should probably minimise the take-up for Berlioz fans and
disappoint Carreras fans in one fell swoop; an example of the
worst kind of marketing.
The first item on the DVD is a rousing performance of Wagner’s
Die Meistersinger Overture. The Vienna Philharmonic must
have played this many a time. Here, their exciting performance
is enthusiastically received by the audience.
Those enthusiasts who have been collecting Abbado recordings,
should be warned ever so slightly. In the case of some issues
made with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and other orchestras
the listener will have experienced an Abbado quite different from
the Abbado on this disc. Recent discs have shown the conductor
in his post-illness phase, conducting with a passion which is
largely absent from his pre-illness recordings. Although the present
disc is extremely enjoyable, it does not quite have the energy
of more recent performances by this artist.
The Berlioz Te Deum has not been blessed with many recordings.
Some will be aware of the Abbado version, made for DG, with the
European Youth Orchestra and recorded in St. Albans in 1981 which
is very similar to the present issue. It is scored for very large
forces, including a large children’s chorus. In that performance,
the tenor is Francisco Araiza; with the present one we have Carreras.
Carreras sings reasonably well, in fact very well for the first
part of his Te ergo quaesumus, but goes a little awry in
the latter part of his solo. This is to be expected, since this
performance was recorded not long after his illness. To be sure,
given the date of this performance, I was expecting it to be much
worse than it actually is. Perhaps in this case, it is the brevity
of his role that saved the day.
The Arthaus recording is very good with the Frankfurt organ making
its spectacular effect at the beginning of the work. It is a shame
that the organ is placed behind the choral and orchestral forces.
Berlioz intended his work to start antiphonally, with the opening
orchestral chords and organ chords being tossed back and forth
across the entire performing space. Unfortunately, with the layout
of most concert halls and churches, this is not possible, given
that the other requirement is for a performing space that can
accommodate one thousand performers. The first performance of
the work, given in St. Eustache, Paris where the requisite layout
is possible, must have been a very moving experience, although
I doubt whether the forces of the day would have sounded as secure
as those on this issue.
9 out of 10 for performance and recording and 0 out of 10 for