Sun, May 08, 2011 - Page 14 News List

Classical DVD reviews

Don Carlo, starring Rolando Villazon, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Marina Poplavskaya and Simon Keenlyside; Chopin, played by Daniel Barenboim; Wilhelm Friedmann Bach, Cantatas; Debussy, conducted by Leonard Bernstein

By Bradley Winterton  /  Contributing Reporter

J.S. Bach had several musical sons, but the oldest of them, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, has received least attention. His father went to considerable lengths to ensure a sound musical education for him, but he never succeeded professionally, and even sold some of his father’s manuscripts, lost now as a result, to escape poverty.

Even so, he may have a claim to some people’s interest, and if so a new DVD of four of his church cantatas and a short “sinfonia,” using manuscripts recently discovered in Kiev, would make an excellent introduction. An item to sample is the last cantata on the disc, Gott fahret auf mit Jauchzen, with Dorothee Mields an especially resplendent soprano. The sound quality is very good, and Mainz’s Augustinerkirche makes an appropriately splendid setting.

Debussy’s silken tones are not what we normally associate with Leonard Bernstein, but here he is, in the last year of his life, conducting an all-Debussy program with the prestigious orchestra of the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome. You can’t help wondering in advance what opportunity the occasion will give for him to hug himself, or alternatively a chosen member of the orchestra.

But things prove appropriately restrained, and this DVD, while no masterpiece, will appeal equally to Bernstein and Debussy fans as a rather unusual collector’s item.

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