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Musical Journey: Rome - Music Of Liszt

Musical Journey: Rome / Various
Release Date: 12/15/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 2110239  
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - ROME: Piazzas, Fountains and the Remains of Empire (NTSC) ROME

The Places

Starting from the Pantheon and the Colosseum, our tour takes us to the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Trajan, the Arch of Constantine and the Capitol, with the later city represented by the Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, and the great piazza before St Peter's in Vatican City.

The Music

The music chosen for this tour of Rome is by Franz Liszt, who divided the last 25 years of his life between Rome, Hungary and Weimar, after an early career as a travelling virtuoso, one of the greatest pianists of his time, and a period settled in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary to the
Read more Grand Duchy. In Rome he took minor orders and developed further his interest in the music of the Church.

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: Dolby Digital / DTS Surround
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 59 mins
No. of DVDs: 1

As a picture postcard it is superb: for anyone who has spent time in the city it is an essential souvenir.

I have often thought that the idea of a fusion of music and images is a great way of being entertained. Add to that the beauty of the Eternal City and the sheer romantic hedonism of the music and you have a recipe for a very enjoyable hour. More about the choice of music later, though. The previous generation of Naxos ‘journey’ DVDs left much to be desired: the present release bears no comparison whatsoever. It is superb.
It is not necessary to give a detailed exposition of the progress of the DVD, except in very broad-brush terms. There are three sections or chapters corresponding to the three works. Chapter One, the First Concerto, looks at some of the more ancient monuments of Rome, including the Pantheon, the Forum, the Colosseum and latterly, as the GIs used to call it ‘The Typewriter’, or the Vittorio Emanuele II monument. The last named was a bit later, having been built in the first half of the 20 th Century. Yet it is a monument, that in spite of the controversy, the Romans would have been proud of.
The second chapter looks at more ‘recent’ additions to the cityscape. This concentrates of the Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, the Piazza Navona and the Vatican. The music used for this is the Second Concerto.
The last chapter is the darkest and most sinister on the DVD. The Dance of Death (Totentanz) is an ideal piece to use with images of the Colosseum with its history of death and violence as well as entertainment. A slightly more relaxed video of the Appian Way adds to the musical contrast of this piece. Alas, I understand that this old road is the playground of a variety of muggers and vandals.
The video ends with a recapitulation of the under-croft of the Colosseum.
The quality of the video is outstanding. Each site or place of interest is viewed slowly and enables the viewer to relax into the sequences of images. There is a very good commentary by Keith Anderson provided as an insert to this DVD. This notes the sites visited as well as giving brief but informative programme notes for the music.
I suppose my only question is as to why Naxos chose Liszt’s Piano Concertos and not the music of a ‘local’ composers such as Ottorino Respighi, Nino Rota or perhaps Alfredo Casella. Even without choosing the obvious Fountains or Pines of Rome, it would have been possible select suitable music to act as a background to the stunning photography. Liszt’s Concertos were both associated with Weimar. However, it is well known the composer spent much time in The Eternal City and certainly loved its sights and sounds. And what is more pertinent the music does act a fine soundtrack to the cornucopia of images that are presented to the viewer/listener.
Taken in the round this is a stunning production that fuses music and image. In this case the image tends to win and the music is lost a little in the development of the tour of Rome. Yet as a picture postcard it is superb: for anyone who has spent time in the city it is an essential souvenir.  

-- John France, MusicWeb International
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