Top Picks: The History Channel's Vikings series, classical pianist Emanuel Ax's new album, and more
PBS's 'Great Performances' features Andrea Bocelli singing love songs, the new Warner Bros. DVD sets include a studio tour, and more top picks.
Vikings, a new nine-part scripted series debuting on History on March 3 at 10 p.m., takes us inside the heart of a young adventurer/warrior who feels constrained by his village chieftain's conservative policies. He wants to design cooler boats and go to distant lands. It's probably – ahem – nothing like the reality of 8th-century conquest voyages, but it is well done, elegantly filmed, and stars Gabriel Byrne as the village lord standing in the way of the young hotheads.
The first epic
Reality TV mogul Mark Burnett turns his craft on one of the biggies in The Bible, a 10-hour, five-part rendition of the entire book. It opens March 3 at 8 p.m. on History with Noah recounting the creation story to the restless residents of his packed ark as they seek dry land. "Touched by an Angel" alum Roma Downey partners with Mr. Burnett to bring an engaging version of the Holy Bible leading up to Easter week with music from famed film composer Hans Zimmer.
Warner Bros., the studio with the largest film collection in the world and the most Best Picture winners, is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The Best of Warner Bros., available as a 100-film DVD set and a 50-film Blu-ray set, showcases the studio's achievements. Each set includes a documentary about the studio and a filmed version of the tourist studio tours, with views of the house facades used in its TV shows and movies, and a glimpse into the studio's massive costume shop.
Who doesn't like tenors singing love songs? Tune in to PBS's "Great Performances" on March 2 to hear Andrea Bocelli singing chansons d'amour in Andrea Bocelli: Love in Portofino. Some of the titles include "La Vie en Rose," "September Morn," "Perfidia," and the theme from "Cinema Paradiso." He sings in Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Neapolitan.
Emanuel Ax's reputation as one of the most sublime interpreters of classical pianists in our day is growing every year, and the latest evidence is his stretching to record three new works. Variations, available on Sony Classical, includes significant sets of variations by titanic composers Haydn, Beethoven, and Schumann. The album coincides with Mr. Ax's upcoming solo performances as artist in residence with the New York Philharmonic.
Albanian Elina Duni has crafted a hauntingly beautiful album, Matanë Malit ("Beyond the Mountains"), based primarily on minimalist jazz interpretations of Albanian traditional tunes. Her rich, deep voice blends like another instrument into the mix of piano, bass, and drums. The "folk" melodies bear the flavor of Middle Eastern music, reflecting Albania's Ottoman history. Of particular note is the subtle approach to the percussion of drummer Norbert Pfammatter. Exquisite!