PERFORMER: A film by Ken Russell
This eclectic selection includes some memorable performances, among them the two Cecilia Bartoli concerts. LIVE IN ITALY, from the visually and acoustically splendid Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, is a wonderful collection of arias spanning five centuries, and Bartoli is as much a joy to watch as to listen to. The opening set of early songs is beautifully executed, with superbly rounded accompaniment from the Sonatori de la Gioiosa Marca, but it’s a shame the surround-sound balance is so heavy at the back in these numbers. It’s better in the rest of the programme, in which Bartoli’s stunning vocal colour and expression are mirrored intuitively by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.


Bartoli displays equal versatility in the VIVA VIVALDI concett, singing with relentless show-stopping agility and tumbling effortlessly through a huge emotional range, from serenity in the ‘Dominc Deus’, through playfulness in ‘Zefhretti che sussurate’, to frenzy in ‘Armatac face ct anguibus’ and anguish in ‘Gehdo in ogni vena’. The disc has subtitles in five languages, and the option of superimposing a live score on to the picture.

Recording techniques were rather more primitive in 1958, but Maria Callas’s poise and vocal character are still evident in LA CALLAS… TOUJOURS, her first Paris appearance.

Ken Russell’s 1968 DELIUS film is a moving yet unsentimental journey through the last years of the composer’s life, showing the young Eric Fenby struggling against the odds to help Delius commit his last works to paper; it is superbly acted, and an excellent director’s commentary adds background. Tony Palmer’s thought-provoking, well-constructed THE MYSTERY OF CHOPIN includes sensitive performances on Chopin’s piano by Valentina Igoshina, who also gives an accompanying concert.

The portrait of ALFRED BRENDEL, made to celebrate the pianist’s 70th birthday, is a fascinating insight into the life, interests and working methods of this usually reserved man. An intimately filmed recital complements it beautifully. THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS, which tells Andre Previn’s life story alongside the events surrounding the premiere of his opera A Streetcar Named Desire (see previous page), might have been better for focusing on the opera alone. MARCOT FONTEYNs portrait is a much more straightforward biography, narrated by the dancer herself and featuring extensive archive material.

The history of the QUEEN’S COMPETITION is also interesting for its archive footage, which includes the likes of Gidon Kremer, Emanuel Ax and Mitsuko Uchida in their youth. However, it’s one of the worst examples of DVD editing I’ve seen — the chapters don’t run on, but just stop, depositing the viewer unceremoniously back on to the menu screen, not mid-sentence, but (surely worse) mid-musical phrase.

The CREAT COMPOSERS films arc both intricately compiled, and do an excellent job of putting each composer’s music into personal and historical context, with musical explanations and examples from a host of experts and star performers.

The Berlin Philharmonic’s traditional season finale from the WALDBUHNE is a rousing affair, complete with sparkler-waving audience and conductorless finale. SWINGING BACH, part of the live ’24 hours Bach’ event on the 250th anniversary of the composer’s death, features traditional and modernised Bach in festive atmosphere in the Leipzig Marktplatz. The composer may well have been turning in his grave as artists such as Bobby


McFerrin performed their own versions of his most popular pieces, but fine playing from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the likes of Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony served to redress the balance.