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Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn [Boulez/Cleveland Orchestra] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: French, German, English
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Accentus
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 31, 2011
  • List Price: $45.98

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Pierre Boulez: Mahler - Des Knaben Wunderhorn/Adagio from Symphony No. 10 -

Purchase Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn/Adagio from Symphony 10 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:5/5]

Gustav Mahler, a troubled musical genius who spanned the transition from 19th century romanticism to 20th century modernism, left 9 completed symphonies and one movement, the Adagio, from an unfinished 10th symphony. At the opposite end of his relatively limited composing career, lies the orchestration of the Des Knaben Wunderhorn poem cycle of which a dozen are included here; others were incorporated in Symphonies 2, 3 and 4. Octogenarian French conductor Pierre Boulez has a long 45 year history with the Cleveland Orchestra although the vast majority of the current musicians were obviously not there at his first Cleveland concerts.  No matter, Boulez’s mastery of the Mahler oeuvre is in full ascendance here, extracting the essence of this orchestral chunk. The Wunderhorn cycle is interpreted by Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená and German baritone Christian Gerhaher. Both soloists are excellent Mahlerians and give animated interpretations of these deceptively simply children’s songs.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Severance Hall in Cleveland is a visually stunning venue, replete with gold inlaid-details on its backdrop.  The videography gives excellent coverage of the individual musicians, beautiful details of their instruments and loving treatment of the diminutive Boulez who conducts without baton.  Generally, the camera balances the orchestra, individual soloists, and conductor quite well.  The split screen of the  conductor and soloists was an interesting touch but added little to the presentation and is one touch that I could have lived without. I would also have been happier with far fewer gold leaf trim shots of  which director William Cosel seemed quite fond.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

The Cleveland Orchestra is truly blessed with an acoustically superb hall. It enables solo and grouped instruments to be heard quite clearly with a natural warmth that is the concert hall experience. The vocal soloists are perfectly balanced with orchestral backdrop much as would be heard in live performance. The broad sonic spectrum is well captured and along with hall ambience is nicely presented in the surround channels of this DTS-HD-Master Audio recording. As a devotee of vocal music, I appreciate it when the sound engineers get it right with the dynamics, allowing the nuances of each singer’s voice to be conveyed to the listener.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

There is a 20-minute interview with maestro Boulez which covers his concepts of performing Mahler. It should be required listening for those coming to this music for the first time. Boulez has had decades of experience with this composer and, unlike some of his predecessors and younger colleagues, has had the wisdom to constantly rethink works that he has performed many times. An entertaining but brief salute to Boulez’s upcoming 85th birthday is included (he is now 86).  There are trailers for 4 other Accentus music BDs including the 2010 Nobel Concert, two orchestral programs featuring maestro Claudio Abbado, and Daniel Barenboim’s legendary Chopin recital in Warsaw during the composer’s centennial year.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

This 2010 all-Mahler program features works which may be less familiar but are nonetheless very worth hearing.  The real treat here is seeing a musical genius at work, Pierre Boulez, with an orchestra that he has known and loved for nearly half a century.  The success of this initial Blu-ray disc is greatly aided by a gorgeous video presentation with the few reservations stated earlier. The sound recording is superb as is a testimony to the venue and the audio engineers. Both soloists give strong accounts of their individual songs. While I have enjoyed a previous Mahler BD of  Kožená  performing  Mahler (Ruckert Lieder and Symphony No. 4, conducted by her husband Sir Simon Rattle), this is my first encounter with Christian Gerhaher who reminds me of one of his  teachers, the legendary Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Accentus music, a new and rising star company in the recording world, should be extremely proud of this stunning achievement.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004T6AC6I[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Pierre Boulez: Mahler - Des Knaben Wunderhorn/Adagio from Symphony No. 10 -

Purchase Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn/Adagio from Symphony 10 on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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