Typical, perhaps, of
Naxos’s attitude towards presentation
that both Romeo and Souvenir
de Florence are allocated the self-same
opus number on the back of the DVD case
and on the DVD Index (seventy); and
that no further information is included
(except for an insert listing other
DVDs in this series).
This is an appealing
DVD for its visual imagery, all of which
would not go amiss in an Italian Tourist
Board promotion. The locations are apt
– Verona for Romeo and Juliet,
Florence for – well, Souvenir de
Florence, and finally the Bay of
Naples for Capriccio italien.
Being much the longest piece, of course,
we get more of Florence than anywhere
else (no bad thing – it is an incredibly
beautiful city and some of photography
is excellent, if not out-and-out breath-taking).
Lucky, too, that this is by far the
best performance (the only one by the
Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Philippe
Entremont). The vigorous first movement
(Florentine countryside and – curiously
– Florentine men – why only men?) has
a fair amount of life, although the
recording can get congested.. The slow
movement brings us to the Villa Bonciani
(presumably the golden treasures lie
inside) while city view of Florence
with its imposing Duomo (cathedral)
inform the third movement. As musical
tension mounts, they put a red filter
on the camera and speed up the film,
a rather superficial device that will
pale on repeated exposure. Liberal quaffing
(of wine and what is presumably champagne)
ushers in the finale (although quite
why a bloke in a funny costume ends
up drinking in a bar and what that has
to do with things defeats me). Later
dismemberment of chickens and intriguing
shots of dead meat (don’t watch it just
before dinner) raise similar questions
of relevance. As a performance it is
fairly successful (it is on a par with
my most recent encounter with this piece,
the Camerata Lysy on Claves - available
through LudwigvanWeb: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Mar03/Sovenir_de_Florence.htm).
Vesuvius across the
Bay of Naples provides some stunning
shots for the workaday Capriccio
italien (back to Gunzenhauser).
Side streets give way to traffic jams
as the music becomes more animated.
The performance is as workaday as that
of Romeo and Juliet.
It is perhaps unfortunate
that I have spent some time recently
with two Cantelli performances of this
latter piece (one the NBC, the other
the Philharmonia on Testament SBT1316:
see MB’s excellent review at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Jan04/Tchaikovsky6_Cantelli.htm,
where he calls it ‘the greatest performance
of the work ever committed to disc’),
for in this context Gunzenhauser seems
particularly hum-drum. Visually, it
is no surprise to see lovers in a park.
The close-ups of gargoyles for the more
agitated sections work well, though.
Unfortunately Gunzenhauser is unable
to invoke the underlying tension of
this piece so it is ultimately left
to the visuals to create shape – panoramas
at the climax, sunset and night at the
close. Running water is a recurrent
thread. This is a sleepy performance
that ultimately dies a death.
So, some fun and some
eyebrow-raising watching the ‘slide-show’
to the accompaniment of some glorious
music in generally mediocre performances.