Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia antartica

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Pangaea
ALBUM TITLE: Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Sinfonia antartica
PERFORMER: New Zealand SO/James Judd
CATALOGUE NO: PDVD 5401 (distr. Select)
This is one of the most impressive music DVDs yet in exploiting the potential of the medium. Taking Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia antartica as the starting point – an impressive performance from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under James Judd’s direction – this is a veritable treasure-trove of material about the Antarctic continent. The performance is illustrated by a video sequence full of stunning landscape and wildlife filmography, the images matching the musical scene-painting with great sensitivity, from the grandeur of the iceflows to the waddling penguins, from the terror of the blizzards to the bravery of the explorers. The only problem is a rather boomy recorded sound that no jiggery-pokery with my DVD system could lessen.


But this is just the first 45 minutes of this generously filled disc. There are also two excellent New Zealand television documentaries, one on the history of Antarctic exploration, the other following an expedition by a trio of painter-poets as they turn their experiences into art (not as pretentious as it sounds). In addition, there’s a Lonely Planet travel guide, a section on facts and figures and website links. All in all, an impressive package, but what next? Strauss’s Alpine Symphony, perhaps? Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles…? Matthew Rye