DVORAK: Sym. No. 9; MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition – Bavarian Radio Sym. /Mariss Jansons, Blu-ray (2016)

by | Jul 9, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

DVORAK: Symphony No. 9; MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition – Bavarian Radio Sym. Orch. /Mariss Jansons
Studio: Belvedere [4/1/16] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: HD 1.77:1 for 16:9 screens, color
Audio: DTS-HD 5.0, PCM Stereo
Region Region free. (note: Amazon lists this as Region B, but the disc is region free)
Length: 83 minutes
Audio: **** Video ****

A fine performance and first class recording of two popular works.

B01BMPJ4DA This nicely-produced Blu-ray disc features two popular classical warhorses played enthusiastically by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons.

On offer are the Symphony No. 9 by Dvorak, his ‘New World’ symphony, and the always popular Pictures at an Exhibition, which started life as a piano piece by Mussorgsky but found its greatest fame with Ravel’s brilliant transcription for orchestra.

Jansons has always been popular popular on the international music scene, but after a heart attack on stage in 1996, he cut back his performances, and then resumed them again. This concert is from 2014.

Jansons was one of the finest conductors to emerge from the former Soviet Union in the last quarter of the 20th century. Jansons was born while Riga was under military occupation by the Germans, who seized it in 1941, a year after its forcible annexation by the USSR. His father was Arvid Jansons (1914-1984), the leading Latvian conductor to emerge under the Soviet system after the Baltic nation was retaken by the USSR in 1945.

Although the two selections on this Blu-ray disc have no shortage of performances both on video and audio-only discs, I found the Bavarians energetic and both works precisely played. The Dvorak is played with an aggressive tempo, and the orchestra dazzles.

The 5.0 DTS audio is quite good. Rear channels contain light hall ambiance, along with distinct applause from the audience. The sound of the strings is about as good as I have heard on a video presentation. Very natural and well-recorded.

The Mussorgsky (transcribed by Ravel )is also well played. It appears the works were recorded separately and may have originated as two separate broadcast programs, as the Dvorak ends with credits and I thought the disc was over and the Mussorgsky had been misplaced. But the last chapter of the disc has it, and Pictures at an Exhibition has its own closing credits.

Again, the Mussorgsky is another fine and very natural recording, and we get another excellent performance from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. While the orchestration might have lent itself to a more fulsome surround recording, the orchestra stays up front, but we certainly hear the sound of the recording venue. This is a very nice disc, and Jansons is an impressive conductor. Recommended!

—Mel Martin

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