A Musical Journey – Germany
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) ('illustrative') excerpts from: Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73, 1877
BRT Philharmonic Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari (from Naxos 8.550279)
Joseph JOACHIM (1831-1907) ('illustrative') excerpts from: In Memoriam Heinrich von Kleist, Op. 13, 1877
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra/Meir Minsky (from Naxos 8.554733)
Picture Format 4:3 No Region Code
NAXOS 2.110534 [50:12]

If you're looking to be soothed or stimulated by relatively conventional - lakes, woods, mountains, castles, mists - but extremely well shot sequences of Bavaria, this DVD will probably suit you well. At a 'street' price of under £5 new if you know where to look, you can hardly go wrong for 50 minutes of material. Both sound and video quality are very good.
You probably wouldn't buy this DVD for the music alone, although you do get an atmospheric and somewhat lingeringly romantic account of Brahms Second by the BRT (Belgian Radio and Television) Philharmonic Orchestra under Alexander Rahbari taken from Naxos 8.550279.
The rarer - thus welcome - In Memoriam Heinrich von Kleist, Op. 13 by Joachim was composed in the same year (1877) from 8.554733. This is usually referred to as the Elegische Ouverture; and since only one (other) recording of the piece is currently available (on Marco Polo 8.220190), it's a bonus to have it as background to the fifth and final chapter of the DVD, which is devoted to Herrenchiemsee. The performance by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra under Minsky is idiomatic if a little dry in acoustic. It's no masterpiece, though it has some persuasive moments.
'Background' is the word, though: there's really little or no intrinsic relationship between the music and video. True, Brahms holidayed in the country, and Joachim was a colleague of Brahms; though neither he nor Kleist has a particularly strong southern German connection.
The title of the DVD is, it has to be said, a little misleading … the locations concentrated upon are only four: the Königsee, Donaustauf, Berchtesgaden, and Herrenchiemsee - all in the southern Land of Bavaria.
Nevertheless, you can enjoy the music: the Brahms, though a little boxed-in, is a creditable account in particular. And you can certainly be gently absorbed by the visual component: just when the sequences have been largely 'arable', in amble the cows; and after several exteriors, comes an interior scene. Extensive vistas alternate with close-ups - of fireplaces or altarpieces. There has been some attempt to pace the video to the sound in that 'panning', focus and nearness of a subject - and the abrupt change of shot at the start of the recapitulation of the Brahms' fourth movement, for example - tend to accord with progress of the music … particularly at the start and end of movements. This is not overdone and rarely intrudes.
There are some visual clichés - mostly associated with water and focus. But this DVD is so modestly priced for its wealth of input for ear and eye that it can be recommended if only for a couple of playings.
Mark Sealey
A wealth of input for ear and eye can be recommended if only for a couple of playings … see Full Review