A Naxos Musical Journey

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Naxos DVD International
WORKS: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Cradle Song
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: (see text for catalogue numbers of selected discs from series)

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Now here’s a good wheeze: dig out some serviceable performances of favourite classics from your back catalogue, book a camera crew to take some footage of historical European urban, rural and cultural sights (with lots of water, animals and sunlit landscapes), put it together, and what have you got? Bibbety-bobbity-zilch.

The creative use of pictures with sound isn’t easy – what would you pick to accompany the noble opening of Elgar’s Cello Concerto? Well, I doubt if the Naxos solution (DVDI 1021) would occur to you: a close-up of a Highland cow staring at the camera while contemplatively chewing the cud, dissolving into a shot of a solitary bagpiper outside a Scottish castle.

Throughout the whole series, the pictures were plainly taken without a detailed shooting script, and some poor editor was then lumbered with the impossibility of fitting pre-determined shots, pans and zooms to the soundtrack. Norwegian teenagers in traditional dress dance to a Hardanger fiddle at a tempo different from the Grieg that we actually hear (DVDI 1023). Liadov’s Cradle Song goes with pictures of a Russian cemetery (DVDI 1027).

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Occasionally there’s a better match: in the finale of Eine kleine Nachtmusik (DVDI 1031) the modern commercial exploitation of Mozart in Salzburg (the chocolates, drinks, cafés, bars) makes a witty counterpoint to the music, but the claim in the fulsome trail for the series – of which these are among the first dozen – that ‘each volume is the perfect ambient experience of sight and sound’ doesn’t hold up. Two people amble over a zebra crossing in an Oslo street at the climax of Grieg’s Sigurd Jorsalfar Suite. Why? Martin Cotton