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William Kreindler
MusicWeb International, February 2010

This is the latest in the Naxos DVD series combining recordings from their vaults with panoramic views of notable natural scenery.

On this disc we cover two areas, the Swiss Alps, accompanied by the Tchaikovsky 1st Piano Concerto, and two famous Bavarian sites, accompanied by the same composer’s Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher. Both of the musical compositions are famous enough to need little comment, so the main interest is in how well these pieces combine with the visual images that we are offered.

The Banowetz performance of the Tchaikovsky is no longer in print, and neither is the Honda. I imagine this is why they show up now in this travel series. In the first movement the concerto receives a solid performance, although occasionally at too brisk a tempo. Overall, it provides excellent musical accompaniment to the great views of the Bernese Alps as well as the lower, grassy areas. Some of the shots are aerial and taken at such a speed that one could get airsick, but basically the combination of sound and picture is quite impressive.

In the second movement we are in and around Lake Oeschinen. There are still plenty of mountains surrounding the lake, but the scene is one of complete tranquillity, suitable to the slow movement of the concerto. The best part is the combination of the area’s famous waterfalls with the movement’s second subject. This is an excellent touch, especially with some of the close-ups of the waterfalls. The third movement of the concerto is mostly devoted to the Matterhorn, frequently in cloud. Unfortunately some of the awe-inspiring shots of the mountain don’t totally combine with the music of the finale. It can also be said that one can have too many waterfalls, although the shots of the lowlands are lovely. The final shots and music are well combined.

The Meditation: Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher was originally the slow movement of the Violin Concerto, but Tchaikovsky’s brother persuaded him to write something else. The Meditation became the first movement of a three-part work commemorating the composer’s stay at Mme. Von Meck’s villa at Brailovo after the collapse of his marriage. On our DVD the music accompanies the Nymphenburg Palace and the Chiemsee in Bavaria. The Nymphenburg is a baroque palace outside Munich and the slowness of the music concentrates one’s attention on the statuary shown. It also goes well with the many fountains. As the music picks up we see the palace itself, though there are occasionally distracting shots of people, but the return of the opening music brings broad vistas of the palace. The second movement, the Scherzo, is also devoted to the Nymphenburg, but this time to the lake next to the palace and its many swans. The palace itself only appears in the trio section, as seen from the lake. The swans return with the scherzo as well as some fish. All of this is well matched to the music. The final Mélodie takes us to the giant Chiemsee, a 32 square mile lake with a castle built by Mad King Ludwig. From the bright sun of the previous sections we go to marshy fog and here it is the music not the visuals that carries us along.

The visual quality on this DVD is quite clear and realistic. Given that the recordings were made some time in 1990s the sound quality is good too. This disc is all you need if you want a quick holiday in the German-speaking countries and don’t have the time actually to take one.

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