Musical gift ideas: for L.A. lovers
Angelenos can be expected to make a beeline to the Gustavo Dudamel bin. Deutsche Grammophon has a DVD of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s opening-night gala that's been avilable at the Phil's shop at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Other stores should have it starting Dec. 15.
Until then, they may try to sell you a new sampler, “Gustavo Dudamel Discoveries,” a selection of single movements from other releases and three encores. The better choice of all is Dudamel’s recent Tchaikovsky release, which features an arresting performance of the Fifth Symphony and “Francesca da Rimini” with the Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra. You can supplement that with a DVD documentary about the Bolivars — “Music to Change Life: El Sistema” on EuroArts.
Miss Esa-Pekka Salonen? A new DVD (Medici Arts) shows him conducting his “LA Variations” and Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony with the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra in Switzerland two summers ago. This is an extraordinarily high-level youth orchestra and sparks fly.
Big boxed sets of Wagner’s “Ring” are also likely to be stretching many L.A. stockings, what with Los Angeles Opera’s traversal of the four-opera cycle this spring. The first Blu-ray DVD (ArtHaus Musik) “Ring” is a wacko German production from Weimar conducted by Carl St.Clair, music director of the Pacific Symphony.
Each opera begins with a little vignette — for “Rheingold,” three quacking little girls play with rubber duckies. The gods look they just auditioned for an “Addams Family” sequel. The Valkuries get out of bunk beds in their nighties and fold the sheets during their “ride.” The cast is young, eager and quite appealing. St.Clair’s conducting is vivacious. The Blu-ray audio and video are knockout (a standard-def version will be available next year).
The 2008 Bayreuth Festival’s “Ring” was most celebrated for Christian Thielemann’s effusive conducting, and that can now be heard on 14 CDs (Opus Arte). Among the singers is L.A.’s Brünnhilde, Linda Watson. What I’ve been able to sample sounds wonderful. The mystique of the Bayreuth acoustic is better captured than in any previous recording.
Simon Rattle is finishing a new “Ring” with the Berlin Philharmonic. Only “Die Walküre” has been released on DVD, and the stylishly minimalist production, fabulous orchestral playing and Willard White’s deeply moving Wotan all advertise this as a class act.
-- Mark Swed