A Musical Journey - France - A Musical Tour of the South of France.
Music by Debussy, Satie and Ravel
Chapter 1 - The Camargue
Chapter 2 - The Côte d’Azur
Chapter 3 - Abbey de Montmajour
Chapter 4 - Ile Saint-Honorat. Fortified Monastery. Abbey de Lerins
Chapter 5 – Arles, its Roman theatre and Les Alyscamps. Saint Remy. Glanum
Music for the tour includes Debussy's evocative Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, played by Belgian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari from Naxos 8.553275
Two Gymnopédies by Erik Satie, played by Slovak Symphony Orchestra/Ondrej Lenárd from Naxos 8.570057
Ravel's two suites from his ballet Daphnis et Chloé, played by Slovak Symphony Orchestra/Kenneth Jean from Naxos 8.550173 and 8.550424
Ravel's Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet played by artists including the Kodály Quartet from Naxos 8550249
No recording dates or venues, given
Director: George Gacot
Cameraman: H.T. Aschwanden
Video Format: NTSC. Colour 4:3
Audio Formats: DTS 5.1. Dolby Digital 5.1. PCM Stereo 2.0
NAXOS DVD 2.110545 [57.24]
The tour opens (CH.1) with views of the wild marshland and pools of France’s Camargue, the area in Provence where the long river Rhone divides itself and pours into the Mediterranean. Along with a wide variety of birds, including the esoteric flamingos, egrets and ibises, it is populated by its own breed of white horses reputedly introduced by the Saracens. There are also brief views of the black bulls that build their muscles there for battles in the Corse. This is, as I understand it, a reference to the non-fatal bullfights held in the arenas at Nimes and Arles. They are quite unlike the Spanish Corrida. The gentle music of Ravel’s Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune makes an ideal accompaniment.
The Côte d’Azur is represented (CH.2) by views of its often rocky coastline lapped by the gently undulating waves and the restricted tide rise and fall of the Mediterranean. Whilst holiday resorts are mentioned, there is little sign of them. The gentle music of the orchestrated version of Erik Satie’s elegiac two Gymnopédies is ideal. However, the tedium of the repetitive views are not compensated for by the superimposed images of Greek and Roman statuary collected by Ludwig I of Bavaria and exhibited in the Munich Glyptothek for the second of those pieces.
Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé suite No. 1 for the visit to the Abbey of Montmajour, north of Arles, (CH.3) is less apt. Some of its more strident passages are in contrast to the peaceful interiors shown. It would also, I suggest, have been better to show the exterior first, rather than spending time with an interior without any sense of its perspective within the whole. The Ile Saint-Honorat is approached rather slowly with views of the sea and hardly relevant yachts and windsurfers (CH.4). The square fortified Monastery is shown briefly whilst the imposing, but now ruined, Abbey of Lerins has very impressive cloisters and gardens. The photography is extended to fit the music with repetitive and boring pictures of flowers and sea views, not enough of the buildings and too much of dandelion heads.
The programme concludes (CH.5) with views of the remains of the Roman Theatre at Arles, but nothing of the Roman Amphitheatre. It then moves to the Roman remains at Glanum with barely a glimpse of the mentioned St Remy de Provence. The pictures linger a short while on the quite magnificent Roman Gateway to the sometime large town of Glanum and the adjacent Mausoleum. Although not mentioned, the latter was erected around AD 100 and once stood on the Aurelian Way between Arles and Milan. The gentle music of Ravel's Introduction and Allegro is not really long enough to do this area justice. It could have included views of the impressive Alpilles and the extensive excavations at Glanum.
Robert J Farr
Better than some in this series, but the photography still misses as much of the area as it captures.