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DVD International presents
Vivaldi: A Naxos Musical Journey (2000)

"Vivaldi's music flows through the natural landscapes and flower festivals of Austria; to the beautiful stark sandflats of Germany; over the famed Scottish highlands; to the crystalline lakes, fertile vineyards and towering castles of Italy; through hushed snow-covered villages of Switzerland. This is a vivid and extraordinary experience as eternal as The Four Seasons itself."
- From the keepcase blurb

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 18, 2000

Stars: Takako Nishizaki, violin
Other Stars: Capella Istropolitana, conducted by Stephen Gunzenhauser (Four Seasons) and Jozef Kopelman (Concerto in D Minor)
Director: G. Gachot

Manufacturer: Alpha DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:49m:50s
Release Date: April 25, 2000
UPC: 647715099624
Genre: classical


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

DVD Review

Vivaldi's The Four Seasons is a set of four concerti for violin and orchestra. Its themes have been used in films, television programs and commercials to the point that it is one of the most recognized classical compositions. In this volume of the Naxos Musical Journeys, we are taken on a tour of Europe set to these concerti, as well as the Concerto in D Minor, op. 3 no. 11.

The tour portion set to The Four Seasons almost has a unifying theme. Nearly every movement is set to nature in one facet or another. There is a great deal of beautiful wildlife and landscape photography here. The sore thumb in the lot is the final movement of the Spring concerto, which consists of footage of a Daffodil Festival in Austria. We see there mainly locals in ethnic garb, parading around the town, usually in slow motion. While this is in character with Vivaldi's designation of the music as a 'Danza Pastorale,' it interrupts the flow of what is otherwise exclusively nonhuman imagery. There is, however, a charming bit where a fiddler and accordion player amongst the marchers play roughly synchronous with the violin solo in that movement.

There is plenty of arresting imagery here, from closeup shots of butterflies, to an impressive (though brief) lightning storm over the Italian Lake Trasimene. A rippling motif in the Spring concerto is set alternately to a waterfall and a turning millwheel. The fall colors in the Autumn concerto are simply stunning and we are even given a point of view sleigh ride in the Swiss mountains. The combination of the snow-covered scenes and the delicate playing in the Winter are guaranteed to give you shivers.

The performances are effective and get the job done. Sometimes that's what is called for, especially when dealing with works as well known and beloved as these of Vivaldi. Be advised, however, that the running time is over six minutes shorter than the 56 minutes listed on the keepcase.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The photography throughout is clear and crisp. The Adagio of the Autumn concerto is swathed in an ethereal mist that comes through gorgeously. Colors generally are good, although there is a tendency to drift toward green in segments which were shot on overcast days. The images of lightning are first rate, as are the striking overhead shots of Castle Tirol. The blacks usually tend to be rather on the greyish side, but at times are rich and dark.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(n/a)yes
Dolby Digital
5.1
(n/a)yes
DTS(n/a)no


Audio Transfer Review: Unlike other volumes in this series, I detected precious little difference between the audio quality of the DD 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, other than the assignment of certain voices to the surrounds. I expect that is the result of using a smaller ensemble for these pieces than the others in the series. Directionality is minimal. There is no noise or hiss of any kind. While there is not a great deal of bass, this music does not call for much bass at all. Overall, you will find a very pleasing mix on either track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Travel notes
  2. Repeat option
  3. Shuffle option
  4. Biography of Antonio Vivaldi
  5. Previews of 12 discs distributed by DVD International
Extras Review: I've complained in reviews of other volumes in this series about the "E-Z menu" utilized in this series. It is abominably unwieldy in every instance, but on this disc it is particularly slow. Attempting to move from one screen to another is excruciating in just about every instance. Since the travel notes are accessible only by going to the menu, and the menu does not permit you to resume the music where you left off, trying to find out what it is you're looking at can be an ordeal. Thus, here is a summary broken down by chapter.

Spring Concerto:
1. Landscape, Muehlviertel and Neusiedlersee, Austria
2. Styria, Austria
3. Daffodil Festival in Bad Aussee, Austria

Summer Concerto:
4. Mecklenburg and Vorpommern sand flats in Schleswig Holstein, Germany
5. Lake Trasimene, Italy
6. Lake Trasimene, Italy

Autumn Concerto:
7. Tuscany and Castle Tirol, Southern Tyrol, Italy
8. Landscape-Chianti, Italy
9. Landscape-Scottish Highlands; Hunting Museum at Hohenbrunn Castle, Austria

Winter Concerto
10, 11. Village of Ftan, Sils District and Landscape, Engadine region of Switzerland
12. Fextal, Switzerland

Concerto in D Minor
13. Spa town of Montecatini Terma, Italy
14, 15. Village of Borgo a Buggiano, church and landscape

The option to shuffle the tracks is less than useful because the folks mastering this disc decided to disable the chapter numbering function. Thus you have no idea which chapter you're in unless you intimately know the music. The option to repeat the entire disc is also available in the menu.

We get a very brief one-screen biography of Antonio Vivaldi. 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 , Spanish Festival, 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.

What would ordinarily be an extras grade of C+ is demoted to C- by the disabling of the chapter and time functions and the unfriendly menu design.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Satisfactory performances of great music, with mostly beautiful imagery. What could be better? Well, the content could sure be longer. But what's here is definitely worth a look and a listen. Recommended.

 


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