, March 2010
This musical journey, through some famous Italian locations, is the latest in the Naxos series on DVD, entitled “A Musical Journey”, showcasing beautiful locations to the music of great composers. It is an interesting concept that can make a strong impression on the viewer and create an enjoyable, different listening experience. Each film is shown without any commentary, introduction or explanations of any sort. A simple title appears listing the place and the music. The images are fluid and detailed, aiming at enhancing the music, effectively serving as illustrations to the score. I have not watched any of the other DVDs in this series and therefore I am unable to comment on their merits, however, I am sorry to say that this particular musical journey through Italy failed to captivate me.
The DVD is organised in seven chapters showing films of Ravenna (Chapter 1), Venice (Chapters 2, 6 and 7) and Faenza (Chapters 3, 4 and 5) to the sound of Mozart’s music. The images are in some cases eloquent enough, as for example in chapter 2 that presents the Basilica of San Marco in Venice against the second movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major. This is to my mind the most effective of all the chapters contained in the DVD. On one hand, the Basilica is truly beautiful; words being superfluous. On the other, the delicate melody of the Flute Concerto’s second movement, Adagio ma non troppo, perfectly underlines its almost lyrical beauty.
Generically, however, I must say that I found the DVD slightly boring. The images are not very dynamic; often quite still, almost as in a photograph, capturing the moment, rather than the action…if there is any. The detail of the work in Ravenna’s Mosaic factory and in Faenza’s Majolica works is very interesting, however, not enough to capture one’s attention for more than a few minutes. It becomes repetitive, even dull after a while and I struggled to keep awake. These are chapters that would definitely have benefited from a knowledgeable, engaging commentary. This type of monotone display continues during the Venice Carnival films and although, it captures the colourful beauty of the event, it fails to deliver the excitement and energy, which are inherent characteristics of such festivities.
The music chosen is also not among Mozart’s most exciting and does not appear to be related to Italy at all. As mentioned in the DVD notes, the Flute Concerto was commissioned by Ferdinand Dejean, a Dutch amateur musician whom the composer met in Mannheim during his visit to the city, in the winter of 1777–1778. Mozart composed for a variety of instruments but the flute was not one of his favourites and I think this is noticeable throughout the score of the two concertos and of the Andante in C major. These are modest compositions: solidly developed, with lovely melodies and perfect classical proportions, as anything that he wrote, but they lack dramatic expression and are often subdued and indifferent. They are not emotional or deeply felt however exceptional their musical quality might be. I believe one can tell that these were not pieces that Mozart really wanted to write but agreed to compose because he was asked to.
Technically, the sound of the DVD is excellent and does justice to Herbert Weissberg’s clear, fine and distinguished playing. He is the flautist in all three works, effectively accompanied by the Capella Istropolitana, conducted by Martin Sieghart who does an admirable job. However, the concertos were not especially recorded for the DVD; instead Naxos used their previous CD of these same Mozart compositions recorded by the same artists.
The picture format is unfortunately in the aspect ratio of 4:3, which does not enhance the filming; on the contrary, it hinders the grand images of the Basilica of San Marco and the colourful depiction of the Carnival, in Venice.
The DVD leaflet notes, written by Keith Anderson, are detailed, informative but also clear, easy to understand by any person whether he or she knows the locations and the music; however, they are only presented in English.
As generally with all Naxos products…this DVD is good value for money and, although a little dull, it is still a pleasant enough experience that will sooth and relieve you after a stressful day at work.