Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ian Hart, Tim Pigott-Smith, Claire Skinner, Jack Davenport, Frank Finlay, Fenella Woolgar, Lucy Akhurst, Leo Bill, Peter Hanson, Robert Glenister, Anton Lesser. Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique / Sir John Eliot Gardiner
By the time the first public performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 (Eroica) took place in Vienna in 1805, a privileged few had already heard the work at a private play-through at the Lobkowitz Palace in June 1804.
Nick Dear’s award-winning period drama, starring Ian Hart as Beethoven, brings to life the momentous day that prompted Haydn to remark ‘everything is different from today’. Filmed in 2003.
Running time: 129 mins
Region Code: All regions
Picture format: 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound format: LPCM Stereo/DTS
Surround Menu language: EN
Subtitle languages: EN/FR/DE/ES/IT
R E V I E W S:
"You could not hope for a stronger cast." -- The Times
"A clever and beautifully made dramatisation." -- Sunday Times
"This was thrilling stuff, as exciting visually as it was aurally." -- Sunday Telegraph
"Ian Hart is brilliant as Beethoven, a volatile, magnetic figure of genius and uncouth charm…not to be missed." -- Daily Mail
Eroica is a semi-authentic dramatized account of the circumstances under which Beethoven’s Third Symphony was unleashed upon an Austrian aristocracy ill prepared to comprehend it, worried over the politics of the French Revolution, and yet somehow aware that it spoke of a world to come that would no longer be theirs. In this effort, the production is a smashing success....
The backdrop is a first rehearsal of the “Eroica” at the Lobkowitz palace. In a large drawing room, the musicians and illustrious guests assemble. The musicians are none other than the members of the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, gussied up in full 19th-century Austrian costume. It must have been a real challenge to play in those ruffled cuffs, vests, and heavily adorned jackets, but they manage quite well. For the sake of authenticity, I presume, the female members of the ensemble have been sent packing....
The real art of this film lies in its silent acting. For long stretches, there is no dialogue at all. As the music unfolds, the actors in turn are shot up close, reacting to what they are hearing through intense facial expressions. Some are deeply moving, even disturbing, as in the Funeral March movement, where the camera focuses its lens on Count Dietrichstein. Here is the macho military man who has only words of criticism and disdain for Beethoven’s new symphony (which he maintains cannot even be called a “symphony”), fighting mightily to hold back his tears as the music recalls for him fellow soldiers fallen in battle....
I have complained in the past that in many instances DVDs of concert events have not yet figured out what to do with the visual dimension of the medium. This production offers a novel approach, and it is one that I really like. Part concert (Beethoven’s score is given in full) and part movie, it doesn’t really provide a lot of insight into why the “Eroica” is such a revolutionary work, but it does provide a magnificent snapshot of the cultural milieu into which the symphony was born, and the profoundly sublime to the profoundly ridiculous feelings it must have aroused in its first listeners.
Separate tracks in surround sound are included if you wish simply to listen to the symphony without watching the video, although even these tracks display a running score (ostensibly Beethoven’s original manuscript) interleaved with shots of the orchestra playing. I’m not going to rate the performance itself, because that is not the reason for buying this DVD. Gardiner and these same forces already recorded the “Eroica” on regular CD. The DVD is not the same performance.
This Prix d’Italia award-winning film from the BBC is urgently recommended.
-- Jerry Dubins, FANFARE