The finest roadshow biography of Mozart continues
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 03/28/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This, the second volume of a 6 volume series, presents the next 2 hours of a 13 hour biography of Mozart that concentrates on his peripatetic lifestyle. Numerous excerpts from every Mozartean musical genre are featured and contemporaneously composed piano concertos are appended to the end of each episode, 14 concertos in all. I first saw these programs, superbly narrated by Andre Previn who also helped script them, on a local cable channel here in New York owned by the City University of New York. These may have been broadcast on PBS but I am unaware of any particulars. The series was filmed to coincide with and commemorate the 200th "anniversary" of Mozart's death; something I hardly felt celebratory about but it packed the Mozart bin at the record store so I can live with it. The entire series is superb, one of my favorite television experiences.
Milan and Bologna in Episode 3 and Mannheim (where Mozart had his epochal meeting with the Weber family: his first love Aloysia and her sister, his future wife Constanze, amongst them) in Episode 4 are the stops covered as Mozart's almost continuous lifelong excursions (which he found necessary to maintain his increasingly tenuous livelihood) are brilliantly detailed. Episode 3 ends with Malcolm Frager playing the Piano Concerto No.5 in D Major KV 175 in the tiny Teatro Bibiena in Mantua with the RISI Orchestra conducted by Marc Andreae. It is a lilting performance of a simple, tuneful concerto. Episode 4 has Christian Zacharias playing the Piano Concerto No.6 in B-Flat Major KV 238 at Schwetzingen Palace with the Radio Symphony of Stuttgart conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti in a superbly lyrical performance. Also performed throughout this episode are lengthy excerpts from some of the masterful sonatas for keyboard and violin, sometimes called "Mannheim Sonatas", that Mozart composed while in that musically crucial city. Excerpts from some of his solo sonatas for piano are also performed. One quickly notes the deepening maturity of the young Mozart: his compositional skill improving at an astonishing rate. Mannheim was home to the first truly great Classical era orchestra, led by Johann Stamitz until 1754, then conducted from 1774 on by Christian Cannabich, greatly admired and soon befriended by the young composer.
It is important to point out that the piano concertos that appear at the end of each program appear to be the same as the ones already offered on DVD as the "Mozart - Great Piano Concertos" series available from Euroarts. They are reviewed here at Amazon, as well. So if you own any of those you will be duplicating them here. That's a pity because the history segment narrated by Mr. Previn is fascinating.
The film is in color and is shot fullscreen 4:3. The region code is NTSC World excluding Asia. Menu language is English. No subtitles. The sound, although the packaging states DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, is in Dolby Digital stereo 2.0 only. This is a factual error that should be fixed. In any event, the stereo soundtrack is clear and well-focused. The digitally remastered video is clear with no video artifacts except a little ghosting during rapid movement. There are no bonuses.
This continues to be the finest biography of Mozart I've ever seen and I strongly recommend the entire series. Ultimately, what Mozart achieved was breathtaking. We wish that fate had been a little kinder to this gentle man from Salzburg who managed to create such incomprehensible beauty and who asked so little in return.