Naxos Travelogue - A Musical Tour of the Graubünden, Switzerland
Music for the tour is taken from four Concerti Grossi by Handel (1865-1759)
Music played by the Capella Istropolitana/Josef Kopelma from Naxos CD 8.550157
No recording dates or venues given
DVD Director: G. Gachet
Cameraman: M. Weiss
NTSC. Aspect Ratio 4:3. Colour. Sound formats: DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.
NAXOS DVD 2.110541 [54.59]


The Swiss are the most linguistically and culturally diverse western European nation. It’s diversity derives from its history, having existed as the world’s oldest democracy for some seven hundred years. After internal religious conflict, the Congress of Vienna guaranteed its independence and neutrality in 1815. A new federal state of Cantons was formed in 1848 with Bern as the capital. The Cantons reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. 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 diversity of the geography also influences the artistic and cultural milieu.

The canton of Graubünden, the Grey Leagues, covers the largest territory of all Swiss cantons, while remaining the most sparsely populated with stunning mountain scenery (CHs. 1-2). The Graubünden borders the Southern Tyrol, Austria and Liechtenstein. Linguistically it has a population in part Romansch-speaking, with the other languages referred to also used albeit little French. The canton has traditional importance as a crossing-point between south and north Europe.

The photography of the scenery in this collection is particularly appealing with villages and mountain peaks deep in snow seemingly always under an azure blue sky. The village of Sils and its tranquil unfrozen lake, feature three times, with the hoar frost deep on the branches of the trees. Life goes on despite the snow; cars and skiers get around (CHS. 5, 14 and 16). The village of Guarda is also interesting with the characterful decorated exteriors of the buildings. The village of Bergel, set within a valley surrounded by imposing mountains, which are the source of the Rhine and Po rivers along with the lesser-known Inn (CH.10). This most interesting village contains the imposing houses of former patricians (CH.13).

As well as cars, which seem to get about with ease, there is also the electrified Bernina rail line (CH.6) which does not stop for ice or leaves on the track and the cable railway up to the well known ski resort of St Moritz. Mind you, if cars or rail are beneath you there are the horse-drawn sleighs at Fextal. A trip in one of those is a bit like posing in a gondola while being punted up the Grand Canal in Venice, or the Cam at Cambridge, except that you have to wrap an elegant rug around your knees (CH.17).

The pastoral music of Handel’s Concerti Grossi make an ideal accompaniment to the visit.

With its variety of visual situations, well divided into seventeen chapters, along with Handel’s music, this is one of the best of this series to come my way.

Robert J Farr