Nobel Prize Concert 2009
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Festive Overture, Op. 96 [7:12]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto in G Major [25:30]
Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Romeo and Juliet: excerpts from Suites Nos. 1 and 2 [38:23]
Martha Argerich (piano)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
rec. live, Stockholm Concert Hall, Sweden, 8 December 2009
Audio Format PCM Stereo, DTS-HD MA 5.1 Video Format 16:9 1080i
DTS-HD MA5.1 surround tracks.
EUROARTS 2057894 BLU-RAY [79:00]
EuroArts continue to issue concert discs with music over the menu-titles. As if this wasn't bad enough, they manage to show pictures of Martha Argerich playing the Ravel against the sound of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet! The orchestral tune-up sound is obviously a different take to the picture as revealed by a violinist finishing his tuning in complete silence. The tea-boy responsible must be sent on an appropriate training course. Please EuroArts, stop this nonsense.
None of this prevents the disc being a great musical record of an important occasion, the Nobel Concert of 2009 dedicated to the Nobel Laureates of that year. The concert opens with the entrance of the Swedish Royal party and the playing of the National Anthem. This gives the viewer time to take in the curious pillared auditorium of the Konserthuset. It seems this building has undergone several major redevelopments of décor and acoustic since 1926 which probably accounts for the interesting mixture of old and new. It sounds excellent on this disc save for a slightly too powerful rear channel during the Shostakovich. The audio engineers have not spotlighted anything and the unfussy video direction is up to the standard one expects from producer Paul Smaczny. With such a huge dynamic range it is worth turning this one up a bit to get the quiet passages into focus.
Shostakovich's Festive Overture is given a virtuoso performance with outstandingly clean string ensemble in the many fast passages. The work is a touch bombastic but serves well as an exciting opener. Shostakovich wrote it in a great hurry as a last minute commission for the 1954 celebrations of the October Revolution. It has been suggested that it also celebrated the death of Stalin, but that was doubtless not mentioned at the time!
The big attraction of this Nobel concert was the presence of the great pianist Martha Argerich who turns in yet another spectacular performance of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G major. The trumpet and clarinet are a bit reticent at the start, one would have appreciated a bit more jazzy inflection, though with this very realistic concert-hall perspective it is possible one has got too used to spotlighting on soloists. This is rightly avoided here because it is the conductor's job to balance the orchestra not that of the engineers. Argerich is her usual fluent self propelling Ravel's fast tempi as if there are no limits and relaxing into his delicate lyricism like the great master (mistress) she is. The wind soloists in the slow movement are simply gorgeous to hear, especially the cor anglais. In the final presto the wind again excel, which they have to given Argerich's chosen tempo! She is obviously as pleased with the orchestra as they are with her and she and Yuri Temirkanov get the expected rapturous applause. Argerich plays a short and very beautiful encore, Chopin's Mazurka in C Op.24 No.2.
The second half brings a selection from Prokofiev's great ballet score Romeo and Juliet. Most of the popular extracts are here formed into a dramatic sequence suitable for listening but out of score order: Montagues and Capulets, Juliet the young girl, Friar Laurence, Dance, Romeo at Juliet's before Parting, Romeo at Juliet's Grave, Scene, Masks and the Death of Tybalt. This is dispatched with rhythmic panache by the excellent Stockholm orchestra with Yuri Temirkanov singing along not-quite distractingly! It is a vivid and passionate performance with a huge dynamic range which has the audience applauding loudly, as it should.
see also review of DVD release by Christopher Fifield (September 2010 Recording of the Month)
A very fine concert well recorded in high definition. Worth anyone's money.