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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY: A Naxos Musical Journey
Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy Overture (1880) [20’16]. Souvenir de Florence Op. 70 (1890-92) [35’01]. Capriccio italien, Op. 45 [14’50].
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/Stephen Gunzenhauser;
Vienna Chamber Orchestra/Philippe Entremont (Souvenir).
Aspect Ratio 1.33:1; Dolby Digital and DTS Surround. NTSC – No Region Coding.


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:

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, 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.

Colin Clarke

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