This is a strange review to write: very strange. Why? Because, thanks to developments in the hi-tech world, it will deal mainly with technology, not performance or, heaven forbid, music. HD-DVD technology, the format used in this recording, was developed by Toshiba. Blu-ray, its rival for the past two years, was developed by Sony. The two formats have competed much the way VHS and Beta fought twenty-five or more years ago for supremacy in the world of the video cassette recorder. VHS won, though Sony's Beta was generally assessed to be superior. Blu-ray has won out in the DVD world, though no clear judgment on who was best has yet emerged. In any event, Blu-ray is now the dominant DVD format. HD-DVD is being phased out by Toshiba (apparently manufacturing ceased at the end of March, 2008). Thus anyone buying this DVD will be putting his or her money into a doomed technology. Sad but true. Of course, if you already own an HD-DVD player, this recording poses no problems for you. In fact, it may be a blessing, as some stores will not doubt be offering discounts on remaining HD-DVD stock.
As far as the performance goes, Boulez turns in one of his more convincing efforts. He is known, of course, for his attention to detail and sense for precision. You get those qualities in his conducting here, as well as spirit and vitality in the interpretation, delivered convincingly by the fairly youthful-looking Staatskapelle Berlin, the orchestra of the very fine Berlin State Opera. Both vocal soloists, Diana Damrau and Petra Lang, also turn in superb performances. The sound and camera work are excellent. Hopefully, this performance will be reissued on Blu-ray.
Copyright © 2008, Robert Cummings