Voyage with three wonderful musicians: Chailly, Mahler & Ber
Francisco Yanez Calvino | Santiago de Compostela, GALIZA, Spain. | 11/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are not many documentaries about Mahler and less about contemporany music, so this is a DVD for not to be missed.
Mahler is really the base of the DVD, as Riccardo Chailly shows in fact his career in the Concertgebouw through the austrian composer's music and as Berio's Sinfonia, 3rd movement has Mahler's music as the "landscape" in which everything get connected.
Watching Chailly explain his deep understanding of Mahler's Fifth really gives a good explanation of how can he conducts the symphony in the outstanding way he do it, in the recording sessions or live, in the own Concertgebouw hall. The documentary is divided into five part, each one in relation to every movement of Mahler's 5th symphony and in those parts Chailly explain which is the meaning of every one to him, which is the better way to perform them and the very long tradition of the orchestra in playing Mahler, as he goes to the Concertgebouw's library in order to read original Mengelberg's manuscripts in the early XXth Century scores. Chailly brings a new way of playing Mahler, specially from the technical point of view, based on perfect playing and a great musicality, but he has a clear conscience about to be the heir of a long tradition that can't be forgotten, specially in the meaning of the music, more than in technical appointments.
Berio's documentary is marvellous but a little sad, as the great maestro has passed only a few years ago and it seems impossible that the man who talks to us is not living today... that life and his music will remain forever... ewig... ewig... anyway.
All this chapter is based on the third movement of his outstanding Sinfonia, one of the key works in the genre along the XXth Century and a marvellous way of putting together many different and precious works. I always thought about this movement as a kind of collage, specially listening Chailly's version (Decca), in which you can very easy distinguee the different quotations, something not too easy in other versions, like Boulez one (Erato). Berio clearly says in this documentary Sinfonia is not a collage, it's a synthesis made out of those music he loved and that was an influence for him in his life, from Bach to Stravinsky, from Ravel to Stockhausen. It's a kind of personal Credo of his career and one of the most interesting documentaries you can find about modern music. The realization tries to connect the work with Berio's own life, showing us his home and his personal library, in which can be seen the scores of some of the works inserted in the Sonfonia.
You can watch too the rehearsals of Berio's Sinfonia with the Concertgwbouworkest Amsterdam, conducted by the own Berio, in a very, very modern performing, even much more modern in the sound than Chailly's one (as Chailly's version was recorded in the first years of his conducting with the Concergebouw and they have not the modern style playing they have now). Sung part is by the Swingle Singers, a group really specialized in Berio's music that give them best in the work.
Frank Scheffer's work it's really marvellous and one of those documentaries that really become a work of art. I think he has the complete performing of Berios's Sinfonia by Luciano Berio, those you can watch on this DVD; I hope he release it too in this wonderful new series by Juxtapositions.
Image, sound, presentation... Everything is great.
One of the lesser installments in the otherwise wonderful "J
Christopher Culver | 08/29/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD, the first in the Juxtapositions series of films on 20th-century art music, pairs two documentaries by Frank Scheffer in which the presence of Gustav Mahler is always felt.
The subject of the first documentary, titled "Attrazione d'amore", is Ricardo Chailly in his role as conductor of the Royal Concergebouw. As the documentary opens, we see him preparing to conduct Mahler, and the bulk of the documentary is Chailly explaining his approach to this composer. Chailly insists on recognizing the tradition of those conductors who came before, but at the same time he places great importance on the instructions that Mahler left for his music, as well as the contributions the musicians might make. Chailly is well-spoken and has strong opinions, and his obvious passion for Mahler's music is somewhat engaging.
After Mahler, other composers are mentioned. There's a brief detour to Puccini's "Tosca", and then there's some brief footage of Chailly conducting Varese. An American music critic is interviewed, and he lauds Chailly for turning the Royal Concertgebouw away from being a "museum" by adding Varese, Berg, and Stravinsky. This comment is fairly ludicrous, since all of these composers wrote nearly a century ago, and Chailly shows little interest in modern masters such as Boulez, Ligeti, or Carter (with the sole exception being Berio), or contemporary stars such as Saariaho, Gubaidulina, or Lindberg. The effort on the part of the film-maker to paint Chailly as something other than a conductor of unthreatening old classics is unconvincing. The end of the documentary returns to Chailly conducting some older operas.
The second film here is "Voyage to Cythera", a collection of musings on the wild third movement of Luciano Berio's 1968 work "Sinfonia". The piece requires some explanation. It is written for orchestra and jazz singers (originally the Swingle Singers), and in the third movement that bulk of the musical material consists of part of Mahler's second symphony, though slightly cut up and rearranged. On top of this straightforward quotation, Berio has a tenor reciting from Samuel Beckett's "The Unnamable", the rest of the singers making witty comments, and the orchestra liberally inserting quotations from 15 other composers. My favourite moment is the comedy of the tenor saying "I have a present for you" and the orchestra responding with that big tutti chord that opens Boulez's "Don". I highly recommend the 2005 recording on Deutsche Grammophon with the Goteborgs Sinfoniker and Peter Eotvos.
In this documentary, the concern is with how Berio responds to the legacy of Mahler. Berio is interviewed among scenes of rehearsals of "Sinfonia", with the Royal Concertgebouw and the New Swingle Singers conducted by the composer. Ricard Chailly and Louis Andriessen also give their thoughts on the piece. It's all fairly entertaining, but I find it rather objectionable that the documentary ignores the many other composers whose works came to inspire "Sinfonia". Sure, when the aforementioned tutti chord is played, one sees briefly footage of Boulez, but there's no discussion of how Boulez's work fits into the 20th century tradition and what it means to Berio personally. Also, the entire documentary seems to be more a try at a cinematic work of art than as an educational resource. For those passionate about the "Sinfonia" who want to know more, David Osmond-Smith's PLAYING ON WORDS: A Guide to Luciano Berio's "Sinfonia" (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987) is a must-have resource, while this documentary is mere entertainment.
I hate to rate this disc so low, since generally the Juxtapositions series is excellent. However, I am not very interested at all in Mahler's music, and don't at all agree with Scheffer's view that he laid the foundation for the richness of the music that came later in the 20th century. The sparse treatment of the "Sinfonia", a work of many facets, simply deepens my disappointment. If you are a fan of Mahler, by all means try this DVD, but those who came to the Juxtapositions series through, say, the Boulez and Kurtag/Eotvos installments may find little to enjoy here."