October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Review

DVD Concert:
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D minor
Manuel DE FALLA (1876-1946) Nights in the Gardens of Spain*
Maxim Vengerov (violin), Daniel Barenboim (pianist); Conductors: Daniel Barenboim and Placido Domingo*
  ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 034   [87 mins]
Blackstar   Amazon UK    Amazon US

Here is music of drama and passion to fire the imagination, to set the movie-cameras of the mind awhirl.

Sibelius's Violin Concerto was written in 1903 one year after the completion of his Second Symphony. Both works were written under the influence of the patriotic liberation movement that had taken possession of the Finnish composer since the early 1890s. It is a richly melodic and deeply felt work with broad sweeping noble melodies that linger in the mind and plenty of drama. Vengerov brings much passion and sensitivity to his interpretation served by Barenboim's strong-attack accompaniment. As a listening experience it scores highly, but the visuals are poor; i.e. - the spartan look of the Cologne concert hall - no relief from the bland wooden décor - and the too-lingering, one-angle, close-ups of Vengerov's intense facial distortions. Frankly, for this part of the concert, I you close your eyes.

Things improve when the cameras have the opportunity of looking at Barenboim at the grand piano (although more variety of shots would have helped). It is very interesting to see one of the Three Tenors on the conducting podium and Domingo acquits himself very well in De Falla's wonderfully atmospheric Nights in the Gardens of Spain. This work is a true partnership with the piano soloist never dominating the orchestra but adding weight and colour to the texture. And this is a vividly coloured work. The opening movement 'In the Generalife' is set in the summer residence of the Moorish kings of Granada above the Alhambra. The music is a set of free variations on an intensely Arabian-coloured motif. The short second movement, 'Distant Dance' segues into the final 'In the Gardens of the Siera de Cordoba' with its vibrant stomping dance rhythms. Barenboim and Domingo partner each other stylishly to bring out all the proud hauteur, the erotic, thrilling sensuality, and the perfumed nocturnal atmosphere of this music.

The concert also has two solo encores for Vengerov: Bach's Sarabande from his Partita No. 2 in D minor and Eugène Ysaÿe's Ballade from his Sonata No. 3 in D minor. Barenboim closes the concert with more colourful pieces by De Falla: Farruca from The Three Cornered Hat and The Magic Circle and The Ritual Fire Dance from Love the Magician.


Ian Lace



Ian Lace


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