September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Review



Berlin Philharmonic New Years Gala 1997: A Tribute to Carmen  
  Claudio Abbado conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orfeón Donostiarra de San Sebastian and the Südtiroler Kinderchor
  ARTHAUS DVD 100 026   [85 mins]
Amazon UK

Georges BIZET: Selections from Carmen
With Anne Sofie Von Otter; Bryn Terfel and Roberto Alagna.
Pablo DE SARASATE: Carmen Fantasy with Gil Shaham
Maurice RAVEL: Rhapsodie Espagnole
Manuel DE FALLA: El Amor Brujo - Ritual Fire Dance
Sergei RACHMANINOV: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with Mikhail Pletnev
Johannes BRAHMS: Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G minor

This is clearly a Pop Concert to celebrate New Year. It's theme is Carmen and much of the music is Latin and Spanish and therefore highly colourful. [The odd man out so to speak is the rather melancholic Rachmaninov piece.]

Bizet's Carmen music has, of course, been used as source music for countless movies; while the opera, or excerpts from the opera, has been filmed many times. The first time was back in 1915 - starring Geraldine Farrar, the opera singer (in a silent movie by Cecil B. de Mille's whim). There was an Italian/French co-production of the opera filmed in 1984 that starred Julia Migenes-Johnson (who sings in the Barcelona Symphonic Tango disc reviewed on this site this month), Placido Domingo and Ruggero Raimondi. A 1983 Spanish production sets the story as a ballet with the dancers playing out in real life the on-stage drama. And of course there was the up-dated version released by 20th Century Fox in 1954 - Carmen Jones starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey.

The Carmen music is without doubt the best part of this concert. It opens with selections from the opera. My audience at Earnley Concourse (Chichester, England) were so taken with them that they demanded to see Anne Sofie Von Otter singing her two arias again. What personality! What a voice! What acting! Bryn Terfel is a fine Toréador even though he seems, in close-up, to be chewing his words (yes, its in character at points but the grimacing is rather OTT. Roberto Alagna cuts a fine dash with his Air de Fleur although his delivery is a tad bland.

Gil Shaham displays breath-taking dazzling virtuosity in Sarasate's celebrated pyrotechnical fiddle showcase, Carmen Fantasy.

Abbado leads The Berlin Philharmonic in an exhilarating and vivacious reading of Ravel's Rhapsody Espagnole.

The famous Variation 18 from Sergei Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Paganini was used in the 1953 M-G-M film The Story of Three Loves. Here Mikhail Pletnev gives an articulate if not very profound performance.

The fill-up items: Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 5 and Manuel de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance from Love the Magician are delivered with dash and panache.

An above the average DVD concert but it is definitely Anne Sofie's night!

Ian Lace



Ian Lace


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