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Raymond J Walker
MusicWeb International, December 2010

This DVD is described as ‘a musical journey’ and as such would seem appropriate for tourists planning a visit to these areas. On the other hand the locations are few and the imagery is very strongly focused. This point aside, the presentation does provide an hour of excellent music well recorded by Barry Wordsworth and the Capella Istropolitana accompanying good visual backdrops.

I had expected this series to offer a more superficial wide-ranging coverage of the areas mentioned and an explanation of their relevance to Mozart. Yet there is rather a lot of in-depth treatment of the locations and with this in mind the single opening location of a monastery for a whole symphony seems to immediately narrow the scope of the video. It makes me wonder if this approach is the most satisfactory as no captions can be switched on to indicate exactly what one is looking at in the many friezes, frescos and paintings being admired. That said, the opening chapters of the monastery are excellent. Sumptuous images are plentiful and elegantly paraded in front of the viewer. However, I should have further information beyond that provided in Keith Anderson’s clear notes. The detail needs to be explained and it would have been interesting to know who the artists were. Certainly the relevance to Mozart is likely to be at the forefront of people’s minds. A chapter at Innsbruck showing the town is perhaps too short and that of the House with the Golden Roof too long. Interesting and beautiful as the facade is, the detail is insufficient to occupy attention for such a long sequence. I was longing for the inclusion of cutaways perhaps of local people going about their daily business.

The quality of camerawork is exceptionally good throughout with nice tracking shots. It has been carefully videoed by Hans-Toni Aschwanden. The cutting of shots is loosely synchronized to the rhythm of the music, but crescendos on the soundtrack are never related appropriately to visual zoom-ins. A chapter at the Alpine Zoo brought a welcome diversion with its high quality close-up footage of ducks and wading birds feeding. But since a zoo contains more than birds it might have been helpful to see other animals in their setting? A variety of subject matter is always welcome. Don’t let the 4:3 Academy screen ratio deter wide-screen enthusiasts: it is far more relevant to have appealing images of good composition as we have here. The soundtrack offers three choices of sound system including surround sound.

Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, November 2010

I guess these Musical Journeys serve several purposes. A far as Naxos is concerned they recycle sound recordings for those who prefer a visual image to make a change from the wallpaper. The images are often quite stunning, whilst the music, never less than appealing, can be appropriate to the image or otherwise; a fact I touch on in this review. Other functions can be to remind the inveterate tourist of places visited, or of places to go as part of a future itinerary.

A word first about the Tyrol. In the days of Mozart, whose music is the backing to these scenes, it was part of the Hapsburg Empire of which the composer was a citizen. Italy was not even a nation, rather a collection of states, some with rulers with a connection with the Hapsburgs whilst others were influenced by, or later under, French control. In that generic sense Italy was a country Mozart visited in his childhood as his father hawked his genius round Europe. I detail this in my survey of The Complete Operas of Mozart. It can be considered, therefore, wholly appropriate that his music is the backing to this collection of views of the Tyrol the southern part of which became ceded to Italy in the treaties of 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War, Italy having joined in on the allies side, albeit a little late in the day.

Brixen lies in that ceded part of the Tyrol and contains the magnificent Neustift Monastery - the focus of the first part of this collection (Chs. 1-4). The external beauty includes the ornamental ceilings of the Cloisters, the Romanesque Bell Tower dating from the twelfth century whilst other parts are Gothic (Ch.1). The Molto allegro movement of Mozart’s 40th symphony, one of a group of three composed in Vienna as he sought work, is an appropriate accompaniment. However, it is the magnificent interior of the Neustift Monastery that is the highlight of this Musical Journey where an equally appropriate accompaniment is the Molto allegro of the same symphony. The camera wanders around the magnificently painted and ornamented ceilings. These scenes are quite fantastic and overwhelmingly lovely. If one has never visited them I suspect this will stimulate thoughts of rectifying that state of affairs. Meanwhile the camera and Mozart’s music allow the observer to luxuriate in such beauty (Ch.2). The camera moves on (Ch.3 ) to show a different perspective with late medieval paintings of the life and death of St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Barbara. These include a vivid representation of the Passion of Christ. Thus vivid scenes contrast with the interior as does the Minuetto of the symphony. The final part of the visit takes in the library and its Rococo ornamentation. The fastish Allegro is less appropriate as the camera has to eke out time for the music to finish with some repetitive scenes as the camera runs somewhat out of content.

The second part of this Musical Journey focuses on the Austrian town of Innsbruck, capital of the Tyrol. The views of the town and its hilly setting is impressive with the river Inn running through it. It was the Hapsburg seat and was rebuilt by the formidable Empress Maria Theresa in the eighteenth century. She had a less than benign view of Mozart; even so the allegro spiritoso of Wolfgang’s earlier 28th symphony provides an apt background (Ch.5). In the town of Innsbruck the photographs of Helbling House, dated 1560, which is dominated by elaborate and extensive Rococo ornaments added around 1730 were rather too fancy for my taste (Ch.6). The visit to the rooftops of Innsbruck with the copper roof of the church, turned green, is less than interesting whilst the façade of the Golden Dachl originally built by Duke Friedrich in about 1420 as his own residence is more impressive (Ch.7).

The remaining views of Innsbruck are less than captivating and stretch time with a visit to the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo (Ch.9) with the music now finding vitality in Mozart’s overture to his early opera seria Il re pastore composed for a visit to Salzburg by the Archduke Maximilian, youngest son of the Empress Maria Theresa. The story of love and duty, with overtones of avuncular behaviour by royalty being considered entirely appropriate for the occasion albeit the family never did Mozart any favours. However the music finds an appropriate venue among some captivating water animals.

The concluding visits are to Wilten Collegiate Church (Ch.10) and Wilten Basilica (Ch.11); both stretched by the timings of the overtures to the singspiel The Abduction from the Seraglio and Mozart’s final opera La Clemenza di Tito respectively. By this time I was tiring of churches and their exterior decorations and would have much preferred a closer look at the impressive mountains that surround Innsbruck.

The included leaflet is adequately informative whilst Mozart’s music and the playing of the Capella Istropolitana under Barry Wordsworth was a consistent delight.

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