Barenboim/West-Eastern Divan Orchestra — The Salzburg Concerts Blu-ray Review
- Video Codec: MPEG-2
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: None
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: C Major
- Blu-ray Release Date: July 26, 2011
- List Price: $39.99
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 West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a 1999 creation of world-renowned conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim , Palestinian writer Edward Said, and German cultural minister Bernd Kauffman. It juxtaposes top young musicians from Israel, Palestine, and neighboring Arab states in an effort to show that art transcends national boundaries, traditional xenophobia, and the politics which these issues engender. Forget for a moment, that this is a “youth” orchestra or that their families may have been life-long enemies. The music that emerges from this 2007 Salzburg concert is nothing short of spectacular and certainly belies the obvious youth of its players. Credit for this accomplishment must be given to maestro Barenboim who, himself a child prodigy, has reached legendary status in today’s performing world. Barenboim has selected a challenging program beginning with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture 3, followed by Schoenberg’s challenging Variations for Orchestra, and concluding with Tchaikovsky’s final Symphony No. 6 or “Pathetique.” A generous bonus is Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in E flat major. The music making is as good as you would get from an orchestra of more veteran players and Barenboim surely knows and loves these works, deriving the last ounce of pleasure that they provide. This performance is supported by excellent videography and audio recording.
Agnes Meth is an accomplished video director and this program bears witness to her ability to highlight and enhance the presentation of relatively static concert performances. The clarity and detail of the performers is excellent and draws the viewer into the very intimate side of concertizing. There is a good balance between close ups and pans without frenetic camera shifting. Most importantly, you are given a unique experience of seeing young people, and I mean young people complete with piercings, from different backgrounds yet clearly synergistic when it comes to music. If this is not moving, I don’t know what is.
Barenboim is not a world-class conductor without a reason. His ability to draw out the textures of four very different works covering three centuries of classical music is ably supported by the sound engineers who present an appropriately upfront sonic picture with the surround channels reserved mostly for the hall ambience and audience responses. If you close your eyes, my personal test of audio realism, you are nearly there in the Salzburg’s Grosse Festspielehaus.
There are several trailers for other C Major videos. But it doesn’t stop there as an outstanding performance of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, from another concert date, is “thrown in.” In many ways, given that half of the soloists are Israelis and the other half, Arabs, it is the most amazing piece of the entire disc, watching their interplay and obvious love for the music and each other.
The Definitive Word
Even without the obvious political importance of bring together the disparate sides of the chronic Middle East crisis, this is an experience that must be shared with music lovers around the world. True, there are occasional instrumental lapses, but they are minor and would not be obvious to any but the seasoned and soulless critics. Time and again, I was astonished at how well these young people played the masterpieces on this program. The real star of this show is Barenboim who gets the magic to occur on stage. There may be, no there are, individually better performances on disc of all of these works. Yet, to my eye and ear, in aggregate, they would still be trumped by the overall impact of these performances. I can only hope that C Major will issue more West Eastern Divan Orchestra videos. If they do, I will be the first person in line to get them. Mazeltov and Mabrouk!
Additional Screen Captures