LABELS: Arthaus Musik
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin (soprano), Yvonne Naef (mezzo-soprano); NDR Chorus; WDR Radio Chorus; WDR SO/Semyon Bychkov; Media Art by Johannes Deutsch & Ars Electronica Futurelab Linz
CATALOGUE NO: 101 421 (NTSC system; PCM stereo; 16:9 picture format)
There are several bonus items on this DVD, including an interview with Semyon Bychkov, who says that, although music is abstract, images can support it. And there’s a well-subtitled documentary on how Johannes Deutsch set about making the computer-generated visual accompaniment to Mahler’s Second Symphony. He encapsulates his aims in his introduction to the live performance: ‘to express the composer’s opinions, emotions, and to build a bridge into the
emotions of the music.’ And there I was, thinking that that was what the music itself was supposed to do. Still, there’s always room for an imaginative visual counterpoint to a masterpiece. This isn’t it. On the screen we see what appear to be slowly revolving, half-digested fruit pastilles, a walnut, and a mint-with-a-hole. This may have been more impressive to the audience at the performance, equipped with 3D specs which let them see the images filling the space in the hall. And there’s a tantalising taste of that in the documentary.
The images liven up later in the Symphony, but, although they’re supposed to be affected by what is happening in the performance (the interactive bit), that’s limited to the odd change of virtual lighting, and other activity triggered by obvious musical events. For the true Mahler experience, listen to the music on its own: not in this ultimately routine performance, but with a conductor like Abbado, who brings real fire to the Symphony. And, if you want a visual element, just watching the musicians play is infinitely preferable to this nonsense. Martin Cotton