Notes and Editorial Reviews
Note: This Blu-ray Disc is playable only on Blu-ray Disc players, and not compatible with standard DVD players.
Also available on standard DVD
(Blu-ray Disc Version)
Documentary directed by Gérald Caillat
Robert Schumann: Symphony No. 1 in B flat major, Op. 38, “Spring”
Spira Mirabilis is an extraordinary new project drawing together some of Europe’s finest young players. It offers a radical new approach to the classical music making. Mostly in their 20s and 30s, they created a dimension to study, practice and perform together
symphonic repertoire without the guide of a conductor.
This blu-ray disc includes the documentary “La Spira” which portraits the musicians and their intense work sessions and scenes from collective life, which documents their way of creating a special attitude and breaking down the traditional barriers between performer and audience.
Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo (all videos) / DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (documentary)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French
Booklet notes: Italian, English, German, French
Running time: 88 mins (documentary) + 43 mins (performance)
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)R E V I E W:
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 1, “Spring” • Spira Mirabilis • IDÉALE AUDIENCE 3079864 (Blu-ray: 131:00)
Documentary: La Spira
Spira Mirabilis is less an ensemble than an event or, as violinist Lorenza Borroni puts it, “a studying process.” Created a few years back by a group of young professional orchestral players who wanted more interpretive input into their own performances and who wanted a chance to study works in more detail than was possible with their home ensembles, Spira provides a “space” where they can get together for an intense few weeks of discussion, rehearsal, and eventual performance of a single work, all without a conductor. And this release is less a concert video (the actual performance lasts less than 35 minutes) than a documentary centering primarily on the preparation of the Schumann First Symphony. It’s a heartwarming film, full of insights into the music and (even more) into the nature of performance—and by the end, you’re apt to feel a strong sense of connection to the players, especially the apparent leaders of whom you’ve seen the most.
You might expect such extensive rehearsal to dampen enthusiasm, but it doesn’t. You might also expect such reliance on group decision-making to cancel out a strong interpretive profile; but at least in this case, consensus does not lead to conventionality. This is a symphony played as if it were chamber music, with the players paying attention to one another in a way you rarely find in normal orchestral performances. And the result (although I think the group would bridle at such a definitive term for the performance) is notable for its wide dynamics, its remarkable tempo flexibility, its kaleidoscopic colors, and its extremely subtle wind playing. An exceptionally vital reading—as fresh as any I’ve heard in years. The clarity and resilience of the performance is supported in part by the small size of the string section—but my guess is that, even with performing forces of this size, your favorite orchestra would be unlikely to match Spira’s joie de vivre.
Still, this is a fairly expensive way to buy a Schumann First—and I can’t imagine that you’d want to watch the documentary more than once. There are also a few puzzles behind the project, in particular relating to personnel. As the members of the group emphasize, Spira is a collective endeavor that won’t appeal to everyone—and won’t work for everyone to whom it appeals. The right membership is key, and there’s a fascinating segment about the difficulty of finding a last-minute substitute oboe the year that they focused on the “Eroica.” Under the circumstances, it’s surprising to see that a couple of players we’ve been following during the documentary have been replaced for the concert.
In sum, a vision of an alternative, nearly utopian, but obviously successful form of music-making. The sound, stereo-only, is first-rate. Well worth experiencing.
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