Naxos Travelogue - Christmas goes Baroque: A Musical Tour of Switzerland, Germany and Belgium
Christmas music in the style of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi (arr. Peter Breiner)
No recording dates or venues given
DVD Director: G Gachot
Camera: J L Dufor and M Weissman
NTSC. Aspect Ratio 4:3. Colour. Sound formats: DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.
NAXOS DVD 2.110546 [52.38]
Might as well get my grumble out of my system at the start, particularly as I enjoyed much of the photography, most of the locations and all the musical arrangements. It is just that the title could be deemed misleading as only two Chapters of the thirteen are not of Switzerland and two of the remaining eleven are not focused on Zurich. No problem though about the preponderance of Zurich.
Switzerland has existed as the world’s oldest democracy for some seven hundred years. It is the most linguistically and culturally diverse western European nation. Its diversity derives from its history; having experienced internal religious conflict, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed independence and neutrality in 1815. A new federal state of Cantons was formed in 1848 with Bern as the capital. The Cantons reflect cultural and linguistic variety. With borders with France, Germany and Italy these are the appropriate languages of the population who usually speak at least two along with English. The Romantsch dialect is also spoken by about one percent of its people. Zurich is the largest city, located at the north-western end of Lake Zurich, and has long been the industrial and banking centre of the country as well as a magnet for tourism. Its history includes being a centre of Protestantism.
It is on Zurich that the opening Chapters focus with views of the city streets at night dressed in resplendent Christmas decorations (CH.1). In the daylight, dusted in snow with a misty hue, the city looks less inviting albeit the bridge over the river Lammat and the mighty twin towers of the Cathedral are imposing (CH.2). The tradition of Christmas is central in December and the film visits the mechanical Father Christmas, a wonderful Christmas crib and the various toyshops with captivated children peering through the windows (CHs. 3-5). The great Minster, in all its internal magnificence appears to the melody of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen played in a baroque manner (CH.6). After brief visits to the Toy Museum in Nuremberg, a city well known as the centre of the German toy-making industry (CH.8), it’s back to Zurich to one of their leading toy emporia with a final visit to a window display of model trains zipping around snowy mountain scenery and model houses; captivating for the children, and, I do not doubt, their parents (CH.13). In between these last two visits, filming takes in a Brussels restaurant where seafood, not just moules and frites, is being prepared and where one can lust over the chocolates, not all Pralines (CH.10). Swiss winter landscapes (CH.12) and the Einsieden Monastery, an important centre of Catholic pilgrimage, are further diversions from Zurich. The monastery church is largely baroque in form (CH.11). The other interesting church visited is that at Engadine, a Romantsch-speaking district set in mountains and popular with visitors (CH.7). Both religious buildings have interesting frescoes and murals.
Each visit throughout this tour is accompanied by Baroque-type arrangements of mainly well-known Christmas music. Those chosen include Good King Wenceslas, The First Nowell, Jingle Bells, Silent Night and We Wish You A merry Christmas. With the arrangements being based on Baroque practice, brass is prominent but not overdone. Once or twice, as with O Tannenbaum (CH.12) the arrangement loses the underlying melody, for me at least.
Robert J Farr
Plenty of interesting content, well photographed, complements the musical arrangements of popular Christmas tunes.