Bavarian Community Brings Bach to DVD
William J. Peters | Sierra Madre,, California USA | 05/30/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"When a young composer, Enoch zu Guttenberg, came to a small town in the Bavarian area of Germany, he was planning to settle in for serious music writing. But, the a local impressario invegled Guttenberg to focus instead on building a chorale society made up of townspeople. Over the past dozen years, he has done just that and now regularly conducts performances of Bach throughout Europe and South America with the Neubeuren Choral Society, a group of more than 100 local townsfolk, to great acclaim.In this newly released DVD by Image Entertainment, Guttenberg is joined by Orchester Der Klangerwaltung and soprano Anna Korondi; contralto Iris Vermillion; tenor Deon van der Walt; baritone Dietrich Henschel; and bass Albert Dohmen. The orchestra and soloists are well-known in Europe and apparently have a large following. Although the soloists have some credits in the United States, they remain unknown here.The DVD has excellent sound and the picture clarity isstunning. But, technically, the entire production lacks. For instance, it is hard to understand that a May, 2001 release would not include DTS sound which would have added to the clarity and presence of the performance. Editing is sloppy leading to views of oboeist Julia Strobel pumping mightily while no sound is emitted. Also, the chorus is not in lip sync which is disturbing at times.On a performance level, there are oversights that are okay in a Hollywood film, but not in a serious music presentation. Mr. Guttenberg conducts with one arm in a cast. Owning this DVD means you are stuck with his momentary affliction for the reasonable life of the disc. Then, contralto Vermillion insists on constantly looking at the music as if she were uncertain of the words. That is annoying since the text in the Bach work is extremely simple. Nevertheless, Bach wins. The music is glorious and the musicianship phenomenal.I give this DVD two stars overall because it misses the opportunity classical music lovers seek. The technology is available to bring a real life performance into our homes for years of enjoyment We are entitled to ask: where are the interactive elements of DVD? No tour of the fabulous church? No interview with the conductor, orchestra personnel or soloists? No "sound-bites" from upcoming DVDs? Still, musically, the performance is excellent. Music: 4 stars. Production: 2 stars."
Joseph Dodge | Tallahassee FL USA | 12/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Musically, this is the finest performance of the B minor Mass I have ever heard. The chorus is somewhat large, but it provides both clarity and (when needed) power. The performers are generally "stylistically aware," meaning without a lot of vibrato and with a great deal of articulation and color. The performance combines precision, passion, and imagination, and the conductor deserves the credit. Many numbers and passages are freshly thought out. The opening Kyrie is urgent. The Christe is joyful. You think the second Kyrie is an exercise is archaic counterpoint? Listen to this! The violin soloist in the Laudamus Te leaves the competition in the dust. The Crucifixus is searing. The Et in Unam is actually sung with conviction, as are the other "dogmatic" numbers. The soloists (especially Vermillion) are superb, although the Bass (Quoniam only) is a little grainy. Alas, nothing is perfect. The dynamics seem compressed, but this seems a general problem with DVDs. (Maybe this is attributable to an origin as a telecast, but I don't know.) Occasional details in the mid-base get lost, as does the solo high trumpet on occasion (but at least the trumpet doesn't overwhelm the others). The locale is lovely, and the performers are (by and large) a pleasure to look at, but there is no information about locale or the performers. One wonders why the conductor's arm is in a cast. The camera focuses on each fugal entry in a tiresome fashion. This work might benefit from split-screen, multiple screen, and overlapping image techniques."