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Classical Music Videos List
Copyright © 2004 - 2006 Eclectic Homeschool Association
The Metropolitan Opera/James Levine
- Baby Bach
Designed for infants and toddlers (1 to 36 months), Baby Bach is a nicely produced video that features recognizable, familiar toys and colorful objects, moving to the complexly beautiful music of Johann Sebastian Bach. According to the video producers, "Bach's music has shown to enhance creativity, improve academic achievement, reduce anxiety and heighten mental awareness." Any parent will embrace this theory. Not only did this video completely captivate a 22-month-old for its entire 30-minute run-time, but it's easy on the parents, too. The images are lively, clean, and sharp, and producers The Baby Einstein Company have a firm handle on what interests babies and toddlers. The extraneous segments with two pretty little blonde girls is silly, but forgivable. Given that most children elect to watch a video repeatedly, this is one that parents won't mind in the slightest. The music, available on CD, is simply lovely. --N.F. Mendoza
- Brahms: Symphony 4: Andre Previn: Sounds Magnificent - DVD
In this fascinating series of films, Sounds Magnificent: The Story of the Symphony, Andre Previn conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in some of the most popular works from the concert repertoire--symphonies by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. Each program is introduced by Andre Previn, who discusses the piece to be performed and the lives of the composers who created these masterpieces by giving illustrations of aspects of their music with a variety of orchestral excerpts
- Brahms: Symphony 4: Andre Previn: Sounds Magnificent - VHS
The Royal Ballet Version 1969
Cinderella may be Sergei Prokofiev's most accessible ballet, both musically and visually, and in the hands of a master choreographer, it can be a thrilling experience. And so it is with this 1969 Royal Ballet performance, with then-resident genius Frederick Ashton pulling out all the stops in a staging guaranteed to please fans and win new converts. Ashton's particular ability to couch his innovative moves within a conventional framework is in evidence here. The back cover calls this "an acclaimed historic performance," and historic it certainly is. Several Royal Ballet dancers are shown in top form, including Ashton (as one of our heroine's ugly stepsisters!), Anthony Dowell as the prince, and the wonderful Antoinette Sibley as Cinderella. The production itself is filled with colorful sets and vivid costumes, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House plays Prokofiev's enchanting music under the steady baton of John Lanchberry. The video itself is simply rendered, and the unspectacular sound does the job. --Kevin Filipski
- Handel's Messiah
This performance of the best-loved of all oratorios, played on original instruments, provides us with a new musical experience. The renowned conductor Roger Norrington--a leading proponent of authentic performance practices--leads the London Baroque Players and the Cardiff Polyphonic Choir in this concert, which was the highlight of the Cardiff Festival of Choirs in Wales. Handel wrote Messiah for a combination of winds and strings, not the large orchestras of the late 19th and 20th centuries. In this program, the work is performed to the original scoring. This Messiah on original instruments is a performance that truly increases our understanding of this magnificent work. 113 minutes.
- Herbert Von Karajan - His Legacy for Home Video - Mozart - Don Giovanni
Herbert Von Karajan, Music Director of the Berlin Phiharmonic from 1956 until his death in 1989, is one of the pre-eminent musical figures of the century. He conducted some of the most technically precise, luxurious sounding recordings in all of classical music. The Karajan Legacy film series documents many of these definitive performances, were directed by Karajan, and are among his only digital recordings. The release of these films on DVD brings the superb artistry of this man to fuller expression than ever before. The wonderful opera "Don Giovanni" by Wolgang Amadeus Mozart is performed by Herbert Von Karajan with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Samuel Ramey and Anna Tomowa-Sintow, recorded live July 1987 at the Salzburger Festspiele.
- Inspired by Bach No. 6: Six Gestures
"Six Gestures" (53 min.) features Bach's Suite No. 6 for Unaccompanied Cello. Bach and ice dance? Yo-Yo Ma believes that world champion ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have done for their sport what Bach did for the cello--that is, to dramatically redefine the artistic possibilities and to shatter all preconceptions. This mesmerizing film by Patricia Rozema (Mansfield Park) explores the outcome of this unlikely collaboration, with Bach himself as the dramatic counterpoint.
- Leonard Bernstein - Young People's Concerts
New York Philharmonic (1961)
Leonard Bernstein earned glory as a composer, conductor, and pianist (classical and jazz), but nothing gave him more pleasure than the joy of teaching. He presented the unique blend of spoken words and music known as the "Young People's Concerts" throughout his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic and for several years after. His enjoyment, and his audience's, can be seen vividly captured by the video cameras. He is an intensely interactive teacher, getting his audience to sing, springing a quiz full of trick questions, and singing a Beatles song to demonstrate a point.
Bernstein is completely at ease talking to his audience. He can take the most abstruse subject - the meaning and function of intervals, tonality and atonality, the links between Gustav Mahler's troubled life and his music - and present them to a young audience with clarity, without condescension, and with a clear sense of the material's value. His subject-matter is enormously varied. For Igor Stravinsky's 80th birthday, he simply tells his audience the story of Petrouchka while conducting a dazzling performance of the colorful ballet. For a program on "Folk Music in the Concert Hall," he plays some of Canteloube's folk song arrangements and the boisterous finale of Ives's Symphony No. 2, full of borrowed pop and folk melodies. The influence of folk music is shown in folk song imitations by Mozart and Carlos Chavez.
The sound and images, taped over a 15-year span when the art of recording was rapidly advancing, are varied in quality; the series begins in black-and-white and ends in vivid color. Not all of the programs are equally compelling, but all are worth close and repeated attention. --Joe McLellan
- Leonard Bernstein: Four Ways to Say Farewell - VHS
Leonard Bernstein discusses Gustav Mahler's 9th Symphony while rehearsing the piece with the Vienna Philharmonic.
- Love of Three Oranges
The ostensible subject of Prokofiev's surrealistic comedy The Love for Three Oranges is a fairy tale similar to Mozart's The Magic Flute : a prince on a quest for a beautiful princess with whom he has fallen in love from a distance; villains of horrifying (though comic) nastiness; magic charms and enchantments (for example, the princess is turned into a rat); and a titanic struggle between the forces of good and evil. But in its subtext, it is an opera about opera, beginning with a near-riot. The chorus is divided into two groups--opera patrons in tuxedos demanding a serious drama and stage hands in working clothes who insist on a comedy. In one dimension, this work is a discussion of operatic styles and conventions, and this is the level on which the Opera de Lyon production triumphs most decisively. Its style is self-consciously brilliant, as it should be. The performers' acting style is as important as their voices, and they have refined every verbal nuance, every gesture, to perfection, including a lot of pure slapstick. This opera, in this production, will appeal particularly to two types of audience: sophisticates who will relish its subtexts, parodies, insider jokes, and chic staging, and children who will be attracted by the story of a prince (son of the King of Clubs) who angers a witch and suffers a terrible curse: he will fall hopelessly in love with three oranges. --Joe McLellan
- Mozart - Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)
Levine, Battle, Serra, Metropolitan Opera (1991)
- Mozart - Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) - VHS
Levine, Battle, Serra, Metropolitan Opera (1991)
- Mozart - Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro)
Jean-Pierre Vincent · Paolo Olmi - G. Furlanetto · Szymtka - Opéra National de Lyon
The Marriage of Figaro, as this elegant 1994 production brilliantly reminds us, was a French bedroom comedy before it became a Mozart opera. It is a classic of French literature, and it is still enjoyable as a spoken play after more than two centuries of existence. Its literary quality gives this production a special flavor. The music--some of Mozart's finest--is beautifully presented by a carefully chosen international cast (including Giovanni Furlanetto, Elzbieta Szymtka, Janice Watson, and Ludovic Tezier), but what sets this production apart is its theatrical flavor, cultivated by a director who is an expert on classic French theater. The standards of spoken theater are upheld in timing, body language, the inflection of punch lines. These qualities are more important here than in most operas; style is both crucial and elusive. Fortunately, the Opera de Lyon, one of most imaginative companies in Europe, shows an impressive sense of style. --Joe McLellan
- Mozart - Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) - VHS
Olmi, Furlanetto, Szymtka, Lyon National Opera (1994)
Georg Solti, The Royal Opera
(1992) - English subtitles
For those who want a home video that preserves the kind of treatment Verdi's Otello gets in a first-class international opera house, this Solti-Domingo-Te Kanawa production from Covent Garden looks like the best bet. Neither Georg Solti's conducting nor Elijah Moshinsky's stage direction pulls any punches; this is presented clearly and forcefully as a drama of jealousy (Iago's and Otello's) destroying innocence (Otello's and Desdemona's), in which a military man from a primitive background is plunged into situations and perplexities that his life has not prepared him to handle. What matters most is the casting of the three leading roles. When this production was taped in 1992, Plácido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa were the Otello and Desdemona of choice, and in this production they show why with effective singing and strong characterization. Sergei Leiferkus is, on the whole, a convincing villain, but not quite on the level of the two stars. The orchestra and chorus are outstanding.
Otello was even more spectacularly represented in a 1986 film also using Domingo in the title role. It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli with more concern for visual and emotional impact than for operatic fidelity and, as such, must be judged as a movie, not as an opera in the traditional format. I would not want to be without that unique vision of Verdi's masterpiece, though his cavalier treatment of the music (most notably his omission of the beloved "Willow Song") has alienated many hard-core opera lovers. --Joe McLellan
- Otello - DVD
- Prokofiev Fantasy With Peter and the Wolf, A
Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf featuring the voice of Sting and the British puppeteers "Spitting Image." Narrated by Sting and conducted by Claudio Abbado
- Verdi - La Traviata - DVD
Levine, Stratas, Domingo
Franco Zeffirelli's breakthrough version of Verdi's opera is an exquisitely designed, lavish production made expressly for this film. Domingo makes his cinematic debut with Stratas.
- Verdi's Rigoletto
Chailly, Pavarotti, Wixell, Gruberova, Vienna Philharmonic
This extraordinarily powerful 1983 production may be the best-sung performance by Luciano Pavarotti on DVD, but when acting values are counted in, Ingvar Wixell manages to outshine the tenor star. Verdi gave the Duke two of Italian opera's most brilliant arias ("Questa o quella" and "La donna e mobile"), but he gave the deformed jester Rigoletto a depth and complexity of character that is reflected in music of great variety and enormous emotional impact: the cruel mockery of the opening scene, the self-doubts inspired by his dialogue with Sparafucile, the paternal anxieties and final despair at his daughter's sad fate, and the burning, self-destructive thirst for revenge. All these motives work their way into music of great dramatic richness, variety, and intensity. Wixell rises to its challenges, not only in the title role but in a cameo appearance as Rigoletto's nemesis Monterone. Location filming provides an atmosphere unavailable in staged productions. --Joe McLellan