Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music Richard Strauss|
Actors: R. Strauss, Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden
Director: Chiseppe Sonopoli
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Special Interests, Educational, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
STRAUSS:DISCOVERING MASTERPIECES STRA - DVD Movie
A Brilliant Documentary about the Alpine Symphony, Coupled w
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is part of a continuing series entitled 'Discovering Masterpieces of Music' that has already brought us DVDs concerning the Schumann Piano Concerto Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music: Schumann (with a performance by Martha Argerich), the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra Discovering Masterpieces: Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra [DVD Video] conducted by Pierre Boulez, and all of the Beethoven Piano Concertos Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music: Beethoven - Piano Concertos 1-5 conducted and played by Daniel Barenboim, among others. Each of these issues contains a documentary with knowledgeable explication about the works involved coupled with marvelous uninterrupted performances. Many of them feature the Staatskapelle Dresden, as does this present DVD, particularly apt in this case because it was this same orchestra that premiered the Alpine Symphony in 1914. On this DVD the performance was filmed in 1998 with the then-new music director of the Staatskapelle, Giuseppe Sinopoli, on the podium. This was one of his last recorded performances as he tragically died of a heart attack three years later while conducting a performance of 'Aïda' at Dresden's Saxon State Opera.
I found the documentary on this DVD to be particularly enlightening. The script, written by Martin Feil, makes extensive use of the comments of Berlin musicologist Habakuk Traber, who elucidates verbally and at the piano both programmatic and structural details of this marvelous score. He takes pains to point out that in spite of some criticisms of the score that call it bloated and bombastic, the work is quite delicate in many spots, for instance noting that at the moment when one might expect a great noise from the orchestra when the climber reaches the summit of the mountain, there are only six measures of full orchestra followed then by an expansively lyrical and lightly accompanied oboe melody. He demonstrates that although the work is in one large movement (almost an hour long) it is clearly a four movement symphony that does not stray very far from classical models while illustrating the details of a day-long ascent and final descent of an Alpine peak, beginning before dawn and concluding after sunset. He also comments that Strauss made the work an allegory for the events of a man's lifespan, a thought that had never occurred to me before but which makes perfect, indeed inescapable, sense.
The focus of the visuals in the documentary are upon Strauss the man and composer, with some accompanying pictures of Strauss in the mountains of his beloved Bavaria. To illustrate musical moments in the score, particularly as Traber is talking, there is frequent intercutting to scenes of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden playing under Sinopoli, often just after Traber has demonstrated a musical point at the piano. This is very helpful.
Needless to say, the performance section of the DVD is magnificent. Sinopoli was one of the great Strauss conductors and the Staatskapelle was, of course, Strauss's favorite orchestra, one that premiered many of his orchestral works as well as, in its position as the pit orchestra for the Dresden State Opera, nine of his operas.
For me this is one of the most successful in this series and I would recommend it generally to all music lovers, but particularly would strongly suggest it has a place in university and other libraries with collections of classical music DVDs.
Picture format: NTSC, 16:9; Sound Formats: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1; Subtitles languages: English, German, French, Spanish (the narration is in English, Traber's comments in German); Region Code: 0 (worldwide); Disc Format: DVD 9; Timing: Documentary - 30 mins, Performance - 56 mins.