The eclectic Judge Norman Short takes some time off from listening to the latest Britney Spears album to review this disc chock-full of wholesome, satisfying classical music.
The real Mozart.
Naxos has been releasing a plethora of classical music on what have been described as "background discs," which put pretty pictures on the screen to accompany music. They would be perfect for a dinner party or sometime when you don't want to have to watch the show to enjoy the disc. This disc has two of Mozart's symphonies, including perhaps his best known work, along with 3 extra Overtures as filler. The disc is a bit short in running length, but has the best video and sound of any of the collection I've come across so far. If you don't have Mozart in multi-channel DTS, this would be a great addition to your classical music collection.
Facts of the Case
Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756 to parents already heavily engaged in music. Both he and his older sister Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart were child prodigies, but the world had never seen a musical savant like Wolfgang. Before the age of five he had mastered his first musical composition. He was five when he wrote his first composition; a simple one to be sure, but he was progressing faster than anyone could believe. Though plagued by health problems, their father took the young boy and his sister on their first European tour in 1763, where the children amazed audiences from Austria to Paris. It was the first of several such tours, and Mozart became one of the most prolific composers of his day. It was in 1774, while he was Konzertmeister for the Archbishop of Salzburg, that he wrote the earlier symphony on this disc, Symphony 28 in C Major (K. 200). But perhaps his best-known symphony of all is Symphony 40 in G minor (K. 550), one of only two he would write in a minor key. Written in 1788, the tragic suggestiveness of the piece underscored both Mozart's personal situation and the situation of much of Europe at the time. Much of the continent was at war, and therefore much of the nobility that provided Mozart's livelihood were away. Though he continued to live in fairly prosperous circumstances, his financial situation was not good, and he had also lost yet another child in infancy. Fairly typical of the time, only two of his seven children survived into childhood. Mozart died in 1791 and was buried in a common grave, though this was also typical for all but the richest of people.
I would be remiss if I did not state that filmgoers often watch Amadeus and believe they know about Mozart's life, and even how he died. There is far more fiction than truth to the film, least of which would be the poisoning theory of his death. In fact the best evidence suggests that Salieri did not have a jealous rivalry with Mozart, and certainly had nothing to do with his death, which was from an infectious disease ravaging the city at the time. This was also fairly typical, with infectious disease being the chief cause of death. One can wonder what he might have done with his music had he lived past the age of 35, but certainly there is a wealth of music which has transcended time and is listened to even more now than in his own day.
I don't believe I can tell you why Mozart is great music and why you should listen to it. Though my first love is rock and roll, classical music has always been able to touch my soul in a different way, and often provides respite and a soothing end to a complicated day. What I can tell you is the musical selections on this DVD are glorious and moving. Though I have Mozart on both CD and LP vinyl, none of them are in 5.1 surround. Both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtracks offer a wide, deep, immersive audio experience, and isn't to be missed. DVD-Audio may well surpass it, but I haven't heard any yet. My only complaint on other Naxos musical discs was the poor quality of the video presentation, but I'm happy to report there is no such problem here. Again there are only still pictures meant to be casually viewed during the music, but what gorgeous pictures they are. Symphony 40 is accompanied by pictures of the Neustift Monastery in Southern Italy, and features many pictures of medieval artwork and statuary. Absolutely beautiful. Symphony 28 and the Overtures come next with pictures of Mozart's native Austria, including many shots of the capitol of Innsbruck. Unlike the two other Naxos discs I've seen, these pictures are striking in their color and detail, rivaling anything on DVD. You can easily use these as a sort of screensaver on your television, or leave it up while entertaining guests. Or just as easily shut them off and just listen to the music.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The only "crime" in these Naxos discs is that they are too short. This one, even with the additional Overtures, runs only 56 minutes. Certainly it would have been nice to have more music for more running time, along with extra content such as biography or analysis of the compositions. No such extra features are offered, which is a shame. At a retail cost of $19.98, and cheaper online, this isn't too terrible a crime considering the quality of the music.
If you are a fan of Mozart, then this would make a worthy addition to your musical collection. The multi channel soundtracks and gorgeous visual presentation make a fine addition even for those who already have his music in other media. If you could find it as a rental, it would make a fine introduction to his music for those who haven't really experienced classical music before. Either way, I think you'll be happy with this disc.
Only a fine for the lack of extra content is warranted, and the fine is suspended. Naxos and DVD International are released to provide more classical music in this form, provided they keep the video quality up to the standards of this one.
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