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DVD Review

Gala Concert

300 Years of St. Petersburg

Anna Netrebko, soprano
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone
* Viktor Tretyakov, violin
* Elisso Virsaladze, piano
Mischa Maisky, cello
St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
* St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Nikolai Alekseev
EuroArts DVD 2053408 LPCM Stereo Dolby Digital DTS Anamorphic Widescreen
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This is one of the finest concerts of its type I've ever encountered. The production is first class in every respect: the camera work is generally imaginative; the sound is excellent; the audience is unobtrusive; and the all-star cast delivers fine performances.

Anna Netrebko, arguably now the most popular and in-demand soprano on the operatic stage, turns in a beautiful and touching Quando men vo and an equally fine Regnava del silenzio. Dmitri Hvorostovsky – is he Netrebko's counterpart among baritones today? – is also excellent in his Tchaikovsky and Verdi selections.

Some commentators found the Respighi Adagio con variazioni, as heard in the compelling performance by Mischa Maisky, among the most interesting items on the bill, mainly because it is a rarely encountered masterwork. It was an interesting choice, to be sure, but I found Elisso Virsaladze's Ravel Left-hand Concerto a more breath-taking experience. Her interpretation was one of the finest I've ever heard, perhaps surpassed only by the Browning-Leinsdorf recording from around 1960. I hope to hear more from Virsaladze, who has made a number of recordings of works by Chopin, Beethoven, Prokofieff and others. She plays with a nearly perfect marriage of technique and feeling here, and is abetted brilliantly by the young conductor Nikolai Alekseev.

Mostly everything else goes well in the concert, even the lighter fare: the Shostakovich Festive Overture isn't much of a piece, but Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg give it plenty of sparkle and color, making it sound like just the right work to lead off this celebratory occasion. I haven't mentioned Viktor Tretyakov yet, so let me say that he too turns in fine work, giving us eleven minutes of excellent Saint-Saëns.

I should mention – if you haven't already figured it out – the conductors split up the duties, though Temikanov gets the lion's share, leaving Alekseev with the Ravel, the Tchaikovsky Polonaise, and the Saint-Saëns. All in all, this is an absolutely superb DVD.

Copyright © 2006, Robert Cummings