This is the first of a series of six classical music documentaries featuring Kent Nagano and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. This one features commentary about and rehearsal footage as well as a concert performance of Mozart's Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551, the 'Jupiter' Symphony. The complete series will consist of similar documentaries about and performances of:
1. Mozart: Symphony No. 41, 'Jupiter'
2. Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, 'Eroica
3. Schumann: Symphony No. 3, 'Rhenish'
4. Brahms: Symphony No. 4
5. Bruckner: Symphony No. 8 (2nd version)
6. Strauss: Alpine Symphony
Nagano makes elaborate historical and technical comments about the work and this elaborated by rehearsal clips with illustrations of the music. There is also commentary from individual members of the DSO. In addition there are clever well-done animated segments featuring Mozart, Haydn and others speaking words found in the letters of Mozart and his contemporaries, a nice touch. The documentary is then followed by a complete performance of the symphony, filmed in the lovely Philharmonie in Berlin. The performance is on modern instruments, a somewhat reduced number of players, and modern ideas about historically informed practice are utilized. This is particularly noticeable in the recurring fugue theme in the last movement, as it is played with absolutely no vibrato which emphasizes its almost archaic sound and makes it stand out at each appearance. The recorded sound is simply magnificent -- among the best I've encountered on DVD -- and I can't speak highly enough of the visuals, both in terms of the masterful camera movements and intercutting and the crisp detail.
I can easily imagine this DVD and its successors being collected by libraries, schools and individual music-lovers. Their educational potential, particularly for those who are only casually familiar with classical music, is immense.
Strongly recommended for its intended audience.
Produced in 2006 in Berlin. Narration is in English with subtitles in French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. In those segments with the Berlin musicians speaking in German, English subtitles are added. Sound formats: DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo. Picture format: 16:9. Running time: Performance 41 mins; Documentary 52 mins; TT 93 mins. DVD9 NTSC.