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DVD International presents
Spanish Festival: A Naxos Musical Journey (2000)

"The flood-lit magic of nighttime Madrid, the windmills of La Mancha, a 14th century palace in Cordoba, the gardens of Alcazar. These were the sights of inspiration for some of Europe's greatest master composers."
- From the keepcase blurb

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 18, 2000

Stars: Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava, Keith Clark conductor
Director: G. Gachot

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:51m:19s
Release Date: October 12, 1999
UPC: 647715099525
Genre: classical


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B AB+A C-

DVD Review

I get the definite impression that this disc was the last of this series to be put together; the whole package give the appearance of being assembled hurriedly and with not a great deal of thought. There are some less-than-inspired moments in the offering from DVD International, marketed in conjunction with the Naxos CD label.

My first beef is that for a Spanish Festival, all they could manage is compositions by two Frenchmen (Chabrier and Massenet) and two Russians (Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov)?? What about characteristic pieces by say Granados or Sor, or even stretching it a little, Albeniz? Would it have been so hard to actually have some Spanish music on this disc? This is particularly grating in light of the very brief running time of this DVD, which is nearly five minutes shorter than the 56 minutes stated on the keepcase.

Many of the scenes bear little distinction and could have been shot practically anywhere, for all the wiser the viewer would be. We see some generic parks and city streets and other non-specific content that doesn't seem to go well with admittedly Spanish-flavored music. This is more of a problem in the first half of the disc, where we are primarily in Madrid. There is little to differentiate this from any other large city. The second half of the disc gets us out into the countryside and we see more of interest that is clearly Spanish in character. The partially-ruined castle shown in chapters 6 and 7 nicely fits the romantic mood of the Aubade and Catalene from Massenet's Le Cid. The scenes of La Mancha, with the emphasis on the windmills, is sure to bring a chuckle to the minds of anyone familiar with Don Quixote.

The performances throughout are vigorous and well-done. I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the presentation of this music; the video content leaves a great deal to be desired.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Overall, the image is pretty good, though really not up to the standards of other volumes in this series. During the Espana chapter (no. 1), the greens and blues seem completely unnatural, as if they had been colorized; this same problem shows up in chapter 9, the Navarraise. There are significant moire patterns in the tile roofs, particularly in chapter 8. We have some closeups of statuary on high pedestals, which makes one greatly appreciate the zoom lens; these shots are clear albeit a little on the dark side.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0n/ayes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio on this disc is outstanding, particularly for the DD 5.1 version, which gives one the impression of being immersed in the orchestra itself. The 2.0 version, which provides a more concert-like flavor from being front-oriented, is a little lacking in depth and more substantially in the area of bass. This disc does not suffer from the tendency to cut the final notes short which marred the Mozart and Italian Festival discs. There is a particularly splendid episode in Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol, the well-known gypsy song (chapter 13), where the composer's genius in orchestration is given full flower. This recording allows the different voices and timbres of the orchestra to veritably erupt as I've never heard it before. Wherever else there may have been skimping on this DVD, the audio was not one of those places. The only thing that seemed like a flaw is that the violin solo in the Scena to the gypsy song (chapter 13) seemed a little distant; however, this could conceivably have been an artistic decision. Overall the sound is quite nice indeed.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 14 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Travel notes
  2. Shuffle option
  3. Repeat option
  4. Previews of DVD International releases
Extras Review: The skimping mentioned above is most clear in the Travel Notes. Where other discs included a note for nearly every movement, here we get only four not-terribly-informative travel notes for the entire DVD, one for each composition. The disc suffers from the same irritating menu design as the others in the series, where one cannot view the travel notes and resume the music where you left off. Because of the relative inaccessibility of the travel notes, here are the places visited, with my annotations to identify the chapters which they apply to:

1. Chabrier: Espana-Madrid, Don Quixote statue, Plaza Mayor
2. Glinka: Summer Night in Madrid- Madrid by night (fancy that!)
3-9. Massenet: Ballets from Le Cid- Madrid and La Mancha; Park of El Retiro and Monument to Alfonso XII(chapter 3); City scenes (presumably of Madrid, chapters 4-5); Castle of Belmonte (Chapters 6-8); La Mancha windmills and Don Quixote statue (chapter 9)
10-14. Rimsky-Korsakov:Capriccio Espagnol-Cordoba and the Alcazar; Column courtyard and greenhouse courtyard (chapter 10); Olive trees, from first growth to harvest (Chapters 11-12); Cordoba (?) and orange groves (Chapter 13); and what is apparently Cordoba (Chapter 14).

There are no composer bios at all, nor any information about the music. There is a repeat option, as well as a shuffle option. The latter is quite annoying because the chapter number display is disabled, as is the time function, rendering one unable to tell what chapter you're in unless you are intimately familiar with the music.The most generous extra is the inclusion of previews, with voice over, of the other Naxos Musical Journey DVDs, Bach Violin Concerti, Handel Water Music/Royal Fireworks Music , Italian Festival , Vivaldi Four Seasons , Mozart Symphonies 40 and 28, and Christmas goes Baroque. Also included are previews of Video Essentials, Mars the Red Planet , Earthlight: Special Edition , Aquaria , Tender Loving Care and More Tales of the City.

Again, the Extras grade of C+ is downgraded because of the menu design and the disabling of the chapter numbers and the time functions.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

The video disappoints, and the travel notes are even skimpier than usual. However, the musical performances and the audio are stellar, and pretty much make up for these shortcomings. Very much recommended if you like this style of music.

 


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