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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



DVD REVIEW
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Requiem (1791)
A Naxos Musical Journey
Magdaléna Hajóssyová, Soprano
Jaroslava Horská, Alto
Jozef Kundlák, Tenor
Peter Mikulás, Bass
Vladimir Rusó, Organ
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Zdenek Kosler
Digital Surround Audio (5.1)
DVD International DVDI 1028 [54:17]



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What we have here is a DVD in travelogue mode, a series of filmed themes, usually locations, accompanied by the music of Mozart's Requiem. Or you could look at it as a performance of Mozart's Requiem accompanied by pretty pictures. The thematic connections between the shots and the Mass content is not subtle and frequently there is none at all that I could discern. The Requiem connotations are acknowledged by a high incidence of the insides and outsides of cathedrals and churches and, as you might expect, cemeteries. The Mozart connection is represented by locational shooting at Salzburg, Vienna and Linz. Music and death are brought together symbolically by filming, in two sections, the tombs and statues of famous composers, a party that Goethe mysteriously manages to gate crash. Among more literal references are a skull shown at the end of the Requiem aeternam and an icon of a lamb at the end of the Agnus Dei! Each of the fourteen sections of the mass are given a separate visual theme, for example it may be Linz Cathedral, an alpine landscape or pictures at a museum.

All is stunningly filmed with a sense of movement that more or less catches the mood of the music.

As for the music, Naxos marketed this performance of the Requiem a few years ago as a CD and very good it is too. It was a typical Naxos production. The orchestra for some – dare I say it - an obscure East European outfit and singers not widely known but a performance that confounds. Distinguished veteran Zdenek Kosler conducts with a sure sense of tempo and the Slovakian performers play and sing incisively. Soloists are solid and the bass voice of Peter Mikulás is splendidly fruity. Although the performance has a certain steady gravitas it does not set out to plumb the deepest depths, but it is refreshing in its full blooded approach.

The performance is not touched by the authentic instruments movement nor noticeably informed by latest scholarship on performing practice and issues around authorship of those parts of the Mass that Mozart did not finish . In other words it has not suffered "assault by scholarly pedants", or the attentions of what Norman Lebrecht called, in discussing the Requiem, "the secret police of the period-instrument tendency". Maybe the police have not managed to infiltrate Slovakia yet. The performance is none the worse for that. The sound is good and will be impressive if you can put it through your Hi Fi or surround sound.

At bargain price the CD was excellent value and this 'travelogue' version is, likewise, in DVD terms, cheap at under $20 and I’ve seen it advertised for significantly less. But also in DVD terms the production is very much a no frills affair.

First, there is less than one hour of music/film plus some trailers (the original Naxos CD had a great deal more music)

Second, there is no booklet.

Third, some of the information you might expect to find in a booklet, such as something about Mozart, the composition of the Requiem and its unfinished issue, can be found by navigating the DVD but it is fairly minimal and no text of the Mass is provided.

Fourth, information on the locations that we are watching, although available via the menu, is not accessible when and where you want it. For example, when I started to play the disc I was confronted with stunning pictures of a beautiful rural church, cemetery and environs. I assumed it was somewhere in Austria but was dying to know the facts. Where was it? how old was it? did it have a Mozart connection? To get this detail you would have to go to the menu and find the notes for that particular section and in doing so would have to lose the music and pictures, then restart the chapter you were at. I did discover (there are no instructions about this) that if I switched on the subtitle facility, then at the start of each section a line is screened on the location, but this may be little more than "landscape". You cannot access the notes while the music is playing. The most obvious and convenient solution would have been to print the notes in a booklet to which reference could be made at will.

John Leeman

 



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