I guess these Musical Journeys serve several purposes.
A far as Naxos is concerned they recycle sound recordings
for those who prefer a visual image to make a change from the
wallpaper. The images are often quite stunning, whilst the music,
never less than appealing, can be appropriate to the image or
otherwise; a fact I touch on in this review. Other functions
can be to remind the inveterate tourist of places visited, or
of places to go as part of a future itinerary.
A word first about the Tyrol. In the days of Mozart, whose music
is the backing to these scenes, it was part of the Hapsburg
Empire of which the composer was a citizen. Italy was not even
a nation, rather a collection of states, some with rulers with
a connection with the Hapsburgs whilst others were influenced
by, or later under, French control. In that generic sense Italy
was a country Mozart visited in his childhood as his father
hawked his genius round Europe. I detail this in my survey of
The Complete Operas of Mozart (see review).
It can be considered, therefore, wholly appropriate that his
music is the backing to this collection of views of the Tyrol
the southern part of which became ceded to Italy in the treaties
of 1919 in the aftermath of the First World War, Italy having
joined in on the allies side, albeit a little late in the day.
Brixen lies in that ceded part of the Tyrol and contains the
magnificent Neustift Monastery - the focus of the first
part of this collection (Chs. 1-4). The external beauty includes
the ornamental ceilings of the Cloisters, the Romanesque Bell
Tower dating from the twelfth century whilst other parts are
Gothic (Ch.1). The Molto allegro movement of Mozart’s 40th
symphony, one of a group of three composed in Vienna as
he sought work, is an appropriate accompaniment. However, it
is the magnificent interior of the Neustift Monastery
that is the highlight of this Musical Journey where an
equally appropriate accompaniment is the Molto allegro
of the same symphony. The camera wanders around the magnificently
painted and ornamented ceilings. These scenes are quite fantastic
and overwhelmingly lovely. If one has never visited them I suspect
this will stimulate thoughts of rectifying that state of affairs.
Meanwhile the camera and Mozart’s music allow the observer to
luxuriate in such beauty (Ch.2). The camera moves on (Ch.3 )
to show a different perspective with late medieval paintings
of the life and death of St. Catherine of Alexandria and St.
Barbara. These include a vivid representation of the Passion
of Christ. Thus vivid scenes contrast with the interior as does
the Minuetto of the symphony. The final part of the visit
takes in the library and its Rococo ornamentation. The fastish
Allegro is less appropriate as the camera has to eke
out time for the music to finish with some repetitive scenes
as the camera runs somewhat out of content.
The second part of this Musical Journey focuses on the
Austrian town of Innsbruck, capital of the Tyrol. The views
of the town and its hilly setting is impressive with the river
Inn running through it. It was the Hapsburg seat and was rebuilt
by the formidable Empress Maria Theresa in the eighteenth century.
She had a less than benign view of Mozart; even so the allegro
spiritoso of Wolfgang’s earlier 28th symphony
provides an apt background (Ch.5). In the town of Innsbruck
the photographs of Helbling House, dated 1560, which is dominated
by elaborate and extensive Rococo ornaments added around 1730
were rather too fancy for my taste (Ch.6). The visit to the
rooftops of Innsbruck with the copper roof of the church, turned
green, is less than interesting whilst the façade of the Golden
Dachl originally built by Duke Friedrich in about 1420 as his
own residence is more impressive (Ch.7).
The remaining views of Innsbruck are less than captivating and
stretch time with a visit to the Innsbruck Alpine Zoo (Ch.9)
with the music now finding vitality in Mozart’s overture to
his early opera seria Il re pastore composed for a visit
to Salzburg by the Archduke Maximilian, youngest son of the
Empress Maria Theresa. The story of love and duty, with overtones
of avuncular behaviour by royalty being considered entirely
appropriate for the occasion albeit the family never did Mozart
any favours. However the music finds an appropriate venue among
some captivating water animals.
The concluding visits are to Wilten Collegiate Church (Ch.10)
and Wilten Basilica (Ch.11); both stretched by the timings of
the overtures to the singspiel The Abduction from the Seraglio
and Mozart’s final opera La Clemenza di Tito respectively.
By this time I was tiring of churches and their exterior decorations
and would have much preferred a closer look at the impressive
mountains that surround Innsbruck.
The included leaflet is adequately informative whilst Mozart’s
music and the playing of the Capella Istropolitana under Barry
Wordsworth was a consistent delight.
Robert J Farr