Notes and Editorial Reviews
Recorded live at the Estates Theatre, Prague, 27 January 2006
Picture Format : NTSC · 16:9 anamorphic (widescreen)
Sound Formats: PCM Stereo · Dolby Digital 5.1 · DTS 5.1
Region Code: 0 (all)
Booklet Notes: English, German, French
Running Time: 66 mins
R E V I E W S
Prague’s Estates Theatre is tantamount to the most sacred of cathedrals to Mozart-lovers, the luxuriant setting for the premieres of Symphony No. 38, the lone clarinet concerto, and Don Giovanni. Mozart himself was beset with admiration and gratitude for the concertgoers of Prague, believing a real spiritual kinship existed between artist and audience. “The people of Prague understand
me,” as he famously said, what surely must have been welcome balm for the artist consigned to society’s peripheries.
This particular release recreates those galvanizing occasions, and with a notable commitment to fealty. Sharon Kam performs her part in K 622 on basset rather than standard clarinet, in keeping with Anton Stadler’s original October 1791 performance, and acquits herself with absolute propriety, if not flair, a trend with this sort of release. One can get in a bit of a rut with tribute and anniversary collections, as they tend to feel somewhat beside the point, more like souvenirs or commemorations of events, milestones, awards, birthdays, you name it, rather than art to be examined on its own terms, free of some underscoring marketing tag. How welcome it is then, when an anniversary set comes along to bump up the stakes.
Nominally, this DVD—titled, ever so accurately, “A Mozart Gala from Prague”—is a celebration of Mozart’s 250th birthday, but the disc’s actual, guiding concept would work in any year: an homage and re-imagining of Mozart-specific events, in a specific locale, with broad historical implications. Interestingly, basing a film on the composer’s history endemic to a single building—at least in a strict chronological sense—would seem to speak more to the concerns and interests of the diehard scholar than your standard Mozart admirer, but no worries of exclusion here: this is as inviting a Mozart disc as we’re likely to get on home video release, its novelty of premise affording sheer performance-based joy. The overture to Don Giovanni is pure energy, Manfred Honeck leading the Czech Philharmonic into the fray—after all, there is history to recreate—Mozart’s conjoined themes of devilish humor and arduous, soul-renewing contemplation summoned almost immediately, a spiritedness hardly let down by the piece’s less enlivened final moments. The sound is resplendent in a manner that will make you swoon that you were not privy to the original performances, as if there were not reason enough to bemoan the absence of some kind of H. G. Wells travel device. Certain venues simply possess an accord of angles, walls, beams, ceiling and stage heights, to produce what I think of as small acoustical miracles—near-ideal recording conditions away from the studio, but with the added allure of live performance atmosphere. No, you will not be opting for any of these performances over any of the long-cherished, classic versions in your album collection, but you might very well find yourself screening this film a half dozen times or so before making room for a proper place on the shelf, its status well deserved.
FANFARE: Colin Fleming
Works on This Recording
Don Giovanni, K 527: Overture by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1787; Prague, Czech Republ
Concerto for Clarinet in A major, K 622 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Sharon Kam (Clarinet)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria
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