Fellini, Jazz & Co., Blu-ray (2011)
Summer concert by Berlin Philharmonic/Riccardo Chailly
Program: SHOSTAKOVICH: Suite No. 2 for Variety Orchestra; Allegretto from Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk Suite; ROTA: La Strada ballet suite; RESPIGHI: Pines & Fountains of Rome; Danza gueresca “Belkis”; LINCKE: Berliner Luft
Studio: Euroarts 2058404 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1080i HD
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or PCM Stereo
Length: 105 minutes; Worldwide region code
My first comment about this Blu-ray would be the video quality. It is by far the highest-resolution music video I have ever seen. Conductor Chailly almost seems to be in 3D against the dark background once the sun goes down on the enormous Waldbühne in Berlin, which amphitheater can hold upwards of 20,000 people. The next thing is the smashing hi-res surround sound, tied in with noticing that every single violin in the orchestra has an electronic pickup! I’ve never seen that on any symphony orchestra. Leave it to these Germans to get everything technical absolutely right. Sure, individually miking everything is not a good idea, but this is an outdoor concert. It was recorded live in August of last year in Berlin.
Matters are not perfect in the title of this release, however. There is no jazz at all – the Shostakovich Suite (also sometimes titled Suite for Jazz Orchestra) is really just light music, Soviet style, not at all jazz. There are saxophones, and there are waltzes and polkas, etc. And the closing Berliner Luft—exceedingly familiar and popular with the huge audience—is a Germanic polka spectacular, with the audience joining in loud whistling during the repeated choruses. Frequent closeups show how much they are appreciating the concert.
The Pines and Fountains of Rome are perennial favorites and rather hackneyed by now, but when performed with the precision and gusto of perhaps the world’s greatest orchestra, and so well presented video- and audio-wise, who can complain? For me the highlight of the concert was the glorious ballet suite from Nino Rota’s score for Fellini’s first big film hit, La Strada. That’s where the Fellini business in the concert title came from. I recall seeing that for the first time at the Pastime Theater in Iowa City, and Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn were amazing at that time, and still are, not to mention that catchy trumpet theme. (I think it was the first foreign film I ever had seen.) Ah hah, now I see the connection between the programming theme and Italian conductor Chailly—sorry, I was a bit slow on that.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.