Various: Various works

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Digital Classics
ALBUM TITLE: The Saltzburg Festival: A film by Tony Palmer
WORKS: Various works
PERFORMER: Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Plácido Domingo, Valery Gergiev, Lang Lang, James Levine, Anna Netrebko, etc
The Salzburg Festival opened its entire archive to Tony Palmer for his three-hour filmed history: irresistible clips from its contents are linked by predictably orchestrated landscapes and by a wide range of equally predictable talking heads. We eavesdrop on the clichéd mouthpieces of officialdom, on the successive presidents of Austria (not a pretty sight), and on Wilma Lipp bemoaning the latest excesses of Peter Sellars. Tony Palmer is not known for fence-sitting; yet there seems, at first, to be an avoidance of any narrative standpoint. Slowly and imperceptibly, though, through any number of incidental vignettes and insights into the work of its artists, a viewpoint is established: if the history of the Salzburg Festival is about anything, it’s about paradox.


Max Reinhardt’s idealistic hopes for the Festival as post-war redemption in 1920 had only ten years later been turned to exploitation. Then, as Karajan emerged from the shadows of

de-Nazification, and the jetsetting 1960s got into full swing, we watch how a festival which brought out

the best in so many musicians,

could also bring out the worst in

so many human beings. And this year, on January 27, there was a

joint celebration of the birthday

of Mozart and the liberation of Auschwitz. Ultimately, one senses that the paradoxes of Salzburg are

the paradoxes of humanity itself.

The annual ritual enactment of Jedermann (Everyman), the Christian morality originally staged by a Jew, frames the history, and repeatedly puts forward the question, ‘What does God want?’ The answer

is quite simply: ‘a reckoning’. It’s one that Palmer gently insists must continue to be heard.


It’s simple enough to navigate through his 37 chapters, but the DVD’s presentation could be improved by including extras and more textual listings. Hilary Finch