Another BBC Great
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 05/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
Another BBC Great
The BBC knows how to make a mini-series and "Tchaikovsky" is another great one. It is a mixture of performance, analysis and biography and has a great deal to tell us about the Russian composer and classical music icon. "Tchaikovsky" is a two-part series now released on DVD under the direction of Matthew Whiteman and is an analysis of the music as well as recreations of what was happening in the man's life. It was produced in a series of flash back and begins with the premiere of the "Pathetique Symphony" which was poorly received. It was to be the last symphony that Tchaikovsky conducted; he was dead a few days after. We then return to the master's unhappy childhood as the series attempts to show some of the psychological reasons for Tchaikovsky's homosexuality that would cause him grief his entire life. Self-loathing over his own behavior which he, himself, considered aberrant helps in showing the conflicts in his psyche which lay behind his wonderful music which was often melancholic.
The film delves behind the music to show the impetus and creativity of his genius and we even see the composer's affair with a young male student.
Beautifully photographed in Russia and the use of a Russian student orchestra adds to the atmosphere of the plot and Hazlewood, himself, conducts interviews with the young Russians as to how the music has affected their lives.
The sound is crystal clear and the Piano Concerto is a real gift. Bonuses include "Who Killed Tchaikovsky?", a short which examines the mystery behind the master's death and clips from Ken Russell's film "The Music Lovers" which starred Richard Chamberlain.
The DVD is a little bit of everything--it is a biography of the composer as well s a concert performance and a documentary and Ed Stoppard as Tchaikovsky is absolutely brilliant.
The Extra is Better Than the Main Show!!!
Richard Masloski | New Windsor, New York USA | 06/13/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Despite the fact that this BBC documentary/drama is extremely watchable, it is also extremely flawed. Great life, great music - how can one go wrong? Well, our guide through Russia and Tchaikovsky's life - conductor Charles Hazelwood - takes one stroll too many, pops up a bit too often with many banal commentaries and if I had to watch him conduct one more time, I probably would have had to put the DVD on pause and take a break. (Come to think of it, in the recreations of Tchaikovsky's life, why are there no scenes of Ed Stoppard as the famous composer conducting? Maybe Hazelwood did not want to share his beloved baton? As to Ed Stoppard, his performance - unlike Tchaikovsky's music - is decidedly one-note.) Anyway, too much Hazelwood, no mention of T's extended family, no info as to his wife's eventual sad fate, no account of T's early suicide attempt (hauntingly captured in Ken Russell's biopic),not a wisper of "The Nutcracker" and no exploration of the mystery of how T actually died. The filmed flashback takes his brother's account as gospel, even though his recollections are historically suspect (as pointed out in this disc's terrific extra). As to the filmed flashbacks, they are extremely reminiscent of scenes from Ken Russell's "The Music Lovers" - as another reviewer here perfectly pointed out. The movie with Richard Chamberlain (despite some historical inaccuracies and compressions) is actually a much better take on Tchaikovsky than is this BBC production. The Russell film had it all: great performances, more insight into the creative process, full exploration of T's tortured marriage and unique relationship with his widowed patron, and a great shot of a living, exhilerated, conducing T in springtime turning in one cut into a frozen statue atop a pedestal in the snow, a cut which speaks volumes about the nature of fame. It is a cut as awesome in its way as the jump from Moonwatcher's skyward flung bone to a spaceship in moon orbit in "2001." Plus...the movie didn't have Hazelwood strolling in and out and hamming it up for the cameras whilst conducting. Now, what I much preferred on the disc in question was the extra! The 1993 Omnibus "Who Killed Tchaikovsky" was much more interesting and illuminating than the more current BBC production, the main feast on this disc. The ending shot at Tchaikovsky's grave in the "extra" is, in itself, worth the price of the DVD. It is absolutely moving and utterly Tchaikovsky-esque and left me shaken. I won't reveal what this closing shot of the extra is, simply know that it, like the scene referred to earlier in the Russell film, silently (wordlessly) speaks volumes through visuals and music. So, in summation, the extra on the disc is better than the main feature and "The Music Lovers" is likewise much better. One final note: in the Hazelwood production, none of the interviewed Russian music students and dancers and singers has anything very interesting or original to say about Tchaikovsky - although in the one scene shot in a bar, you can see that the musicians do love their beer! I got thirsty myself watching that scene! But not thirsty for a cholera-tainted glass of water."
Superb BBC production
frankenberry | Los Angeles, CA USA | 06/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a two-hour BBC production from 2007 which originally aired in two parts. The DVD presents both parts separately as originally broadcast in the UK.
Mixing a documentary approach, dramatic recreations featuring actors, and conductor Charles Hazlewood conducting a young Russian orchestra performing Tchaikovsky in modern-day, this BBC production flows seamlessly and will immerse any viewer looking for historical coverage of Tchaikovsky, as well as other viewers simply looking for a dramatic tale of an historical legend. All the important aspects of Tchaikovsky's life and music are touched on, and the music is always given its time to breathe and enthrall. The only small quibble is that the sequences showing host-narrator Hazlewood conducting the modern orchestra are somewhat laughable. His conducting just comes off as a bit ridiculous looking (and I'm trying to be nice here) - otherwise, Hazlewood's host-narration segments are exemplary.
I'm a huge fan of Ken Russell's 1970 film THE MUSIC LOVERS starring Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson (an incredible film that has many sequences recreated in this BBC production) and only hope that someday MGM will finally release a widescreen DVD edition of that film (although I've only been waiting 10 years already so I'm not holding my breath). If you haven't seen the film, seek out a dub off the old 2.35:1 widescreen laserdisc version as the old VHS is horribly pan-and-scanned and ruins all the compositions. The film may not get every historical detail correct and has been criticized for that, but it's still an amazing visual and musical tour-de-force that delivers the complete essence of Tchaikovsky and his music. It's an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.
In the meantime, this BBC production brings back some of that magic and Tchaikovsky's music continues to be timeless. This BBC production is definitely superb. The DVD also includes a bonus 50-minute BBC production from 1993 called "Who Killed Tchaikovsky?" which tries to answer just that. It's interesting, and does include clips from Ken Russell's "THE MUSIC LOVERS" (but in pan-and-scan!), but overall this earlier BBC expose is kind of cheap and unpolished, especially compared to the main and primary BBC production on the DVD. So this bonus is simply an extra, so no complaining there."
Samtrak | Washington DC | 04/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm sending copies of "Tchaikovsky" to my closest gay friends, my daughter...and my ex-wife with hope that she will better understand the fear and motives that drove me into a loveless marriage."