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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
The Trout, The Greatest Love and the Greatest Sorrow
Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Pré, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Zubin Mehta, Andreas Schmidt, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Michael Sanderling, Antje Weithaus.
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch
Executive Producers: Hans Petri and Christopher Nupen
originally recorded 1969 and 1983
DVD - all regions
OPUS ARTE/ALLEGRO CN0903D [181:00]

 

 

 

At last these two famous films, made for television, are available on DVD.

The Trout is the film of a now legendary performance on August 30th, 1969. Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Pré, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, and Zubin Mehta, all old friends, found time in their busy schedules to perform the Quintet, and celebrate the optimism of the “new” Royal Festival Hall and its visions for music. They were all young, vibrant with enthusiasm and vigour. There was a tangible sense of excitement in the atmosphere. The short film follows them as they arrive in London, showing them as human beings. Perlman plays for his baby son, Mehta bows on Perlman's violin and they jokingly kiss. They horse around, full of vitality, and channel that verve into a wonderful, vivid performance, shown in full at the end.

Nine years later, Jacqueline du Pré was to say “we were five friends, united by our youth and the pleasure we had in making music together, any excuse for fun and music. When we played the Trout it would have evaporated, as all concerts do, but Christopher Nupen saw the film in it and suddenly, there was a statement of our happiness! ...... When I see the Trout it gives me back that feeling, which will always be so precious to me”.

After nearly forty years, we can still feel that excitement. Jacqueline du Pré is no longer with us, her career cut tragically short. The much maligned South Bank is being renovated, and ’sixties fashions look ludicrous now. But the happiness and optimism of those moments remain forever, captured in film.

At the time, the film was controversial because it showed musicians in an informal setting. Far from harming musicianship, the film shows how music-making really “works”. It shows musicians interacting, picking up on musical cues and ideas just as others pick up on non-verbal body language. Music-making isn't a mechanical process. This film lets us follow the instinctive communication between musicians almost as if we were part of their circle. There is “art” in filming music too

Just as Barenboim, du Pré, Perlman, Zukerman and Mehta were on the threshold of great things, so was Christopher Nupen, when he made The Trout. As Jacqueline du Pré said, he saw dramatic possibilities, and sensed that film could be used in new, imaginative ways to enhance the musical experience. His approach was far more original than simply to replicate performance, or to fit it into a narrative, like Ken Russell's biographies of Delius and Elgar, worthy as those are.

Greatest Love and Greatest Sorrow is Nupen's exploration of Schubert. Using Schubert's own words from letters, and texts from his favourite song settings, Nupen gets Schubert to “speak” for himself. This is reinforced by drawings and paintings of the time, and plenty of music. Performers include Ashkenazy, Sawallisch and Andreas Schmidt, the baritone, dressed in period costume, who looks like Schubert himself, though taller and more handsome. Schubert's friends nicknamed him “mushroom”.

Making Schubert the narrator means that the film can go straight to the composer’s inner life, on his own terms, “Greatest Love and Greatest Sorrow” refers to a dream Schubert had in 1822, which seemed significant enough that he wrote it down on waking. The text is quoted in full, because it seems to encapsulate Schubert's inner feelings about being a composer. He realised that to be a true artist, he had to find his own path, even if that meant isolation. The film amplifies these ideas through careful choice of music : Heine's Die Stadt and Müller's Die Nebensonnen, for example, and a resounding Der Doppelgänger at the end. Yet Schubert was to die young, his full potential never known. His love of life and of music made his death all the more tragic. Such a waste, such lost opportunities! Underlying his later, beautiful music hangs a sense of mortality that may have been part of the Romantic ethos but was also deeply personal to Schubert the man. It is a lovely, sensitive film, ideal for those wanted to feel closer to the composer and understand him.

The correlation with Jacqueline du Pré is left unsaid.

Anne Ozorio

 

 

 

 



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