Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?  
Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

Charles H. Parsons
American Record Guide, November 2012

The choreography is amazingly intense, romantic, sensual and platonic by turns, fully capturing the intricacies and delicacies of the story. A masterpiece.

Neumeier has chosen his music with style and imagination…a significant amount of music is played by pianist Elizabeth Cooper. The piano is purity. © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, September 2012

John Neumeier is an American-born dancer and choreographer who has been artistic director of the Hamburg Ballet since 1973. Thanks to DVDs, his work is becoming better known internationally, and this is the third Neumeier ballet I have had the pleasure of experiencing and reviewing.

Most of the music Neumeier has chosen is by Bach (The Musical Offering) or Wagner (Tristan und Isolde, Tannhäuser, the Wesendonck Lieder, his piano music). Roughly speaking, Bach’s music represents the rational world, and Wagner’s the irrational. The music is appropriate, and Neumeier uses it well, resisting the temptation to make his ballet seem…well, too operatic.

The basis of Neumeier’s style is classical ballet, but it is more athletic, more overtly dramatic, and very conscious of the expressive potential found in modern dance. In this production in particular, we are aware that the dancers also are actors. I don’t know what their speaking voices are like, but both could have had a strong career in silent movies, so expressive are their faces and body language.

The pluses here are superb choreography, staging, and light design (all by Neumeier), impressive dancing by an appealing cast, and an intriguing new look at Mann’s novella.

Production values are excellent; this is a DVD that looks and sounds very good.

…Neumeier’s Death in Venice is a work of high sensitivity, creativity, and technical accomplishment, and it can only get better the more one sees it. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

James L. Zychowicz
MusicWeb International, July 2012

Neumeier’s use of the famous novella as a point of departure sets the bar high for creating dance that translates the story effectively. Neumeier succeeds in meeting the challenge with his medium becoming an apt vehicle for retelling Mann’s story. In this regard the element of abstraction works well within the structure, so that it is possible to enter into the concept of communicating the narrative through dance. Thus, the choreography in the opening scene projects the textures and motion found in a fugue by Bach. This in turn suggests the kinds of abstract dances associated with the fictional protagonist (here portrayed convincingly by Lloyd Riggins). Neumeier’s own facility at choreography is evident in the contrastingly passionate dances that underscore Aschenbach’s fascination with Tadzio. He is, after all, responding to the music. The selection of pieces is another masterstroke which serves as the means to connect dance and narrative. The musical element stands apart from the way Visconti used the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony throughout the film Death in Venice. In the latter the recurrence of the same music in various contexts differs from the ways in which Neumeier juxtaposed different kinds of works in his ballet. Wisely he avoids the inclusion of any Mahler; no suggestion of any intertextual element between this new ballet and Visconti’s film. While Neumeier uses a number of pieces, the choreography allows them to cohere and this video usefully shows how this works. With stage direction as nimble as would occur with a play, the sense of timing found in this performance merits attention for the way it allows the entire structure to flow with easy eloquence.

As ballet, this conception of the story works well on various levels. The evocation of the eighteenth century milieu is readily found in the music. The use of selected props prevents the ballet from becoming a costume drama; the use of tricorn hats and period jackets is sufficient in this regard. Likewise, the mirroring that is part of the choreography throughout the ballet sets up the climactic scene between Aschenbach and Tadzio. This aspect of dance further connects the treatment of fugue in the first part of the ballet with the intimate scene at the end. At the same time, the element of music stands out in the treatment of the music and the visual reminders of scores. The use of Peters editions of Bach’s music as a prop not only presents the name of the composer unquestionably on the stage, but also suggest the kind of reverence for the score that parallels the way the book of scripture functions in a liturgical setting.

A modern work of art, Neumeier’s ballet merits attention for its convincing translation of Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice in dance. With a cast and production shaped by Neumeier, the video offers an authentic rendering of the 2004 ballet for future audiences to appreciate. It is moving for the way the story becomes vivid without a single word of dialogue. Neumeier’s Death in Venice demonstrates the choreographer’s mastery of the genre. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group