Conducted by Claudio Abbado, this DVD features Anne Sofie von Otter, Bryn Terfel and the Berliner Philharmonic.
Not to be confused with the more famous Vienna New Year's Day concerts, this is a recording of the Berlin Philharmonic's New Year's Gala from December 31, 1997. The concert was billed as "Dances of Life, Love and Death," a homage to Carmen
. Beginning with six of the most famous selections from Bizet's opera, the all-star cast features mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie Von Otter, baritone Bryn Terfel, and tenor Robert Alagna. Other than being passionately romantic, there is no direct link between Carmen
and Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
, but a warm-hearted performance by pianist Mikhail Pletnev requires no excuse. Delivered with fiery virtuosity by violinist Gil Shaham, Pablo de Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy
then transforms Bizet's melodies into a concentrated instrumental extravaganza. The mood continues with Ravel's Rhapsodie Espagnole
and De Falla's Ritual Fire Dance
, with the closing Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms maintaining the theme by gypsy association. This is a wonderfully sultry concert for a cold winter's day, conductor Claudio Abbado delivering pure romance, winning uplifting performances from his fabulous gallery of musicians and stellar soloists.
The DVD is presented at 16:9, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs. There is no option for standard 4:3 viewing. When viewed on a "standard" television, the program is squeezed and distorted, making everyone too tall and thin. On a widescreen TV, the picture, while vastly superior to VHS, shows grain and is not always well focused. The sound, in both PCM and Dolby Digital stereo, is excellent. Unless one counts the useful booklet, there are no bonus features. --Gary S. Dalkin, Amazon.co.uk