Moscow and the Golden Ring – A Musical Journey

by | Dec 17, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Moscow and the Golden Ring – A Musical Journey

Travelogue of Moscow & Suburbs to music of TCHAIKOVSKY, BALAKIREV, ARENSKY and other Russian composers
Studio: Naxos
Video: 4:3 full frame, color
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM stereo
No region encoding
Length: 60:32
Rating: ****

Back in the 1990s Naxos issued a series of laserdiscs titled Classical Visual Music, which married video travelogue shots of various European scenes with appropriate music taken from the Naxos catalog.  The music was offered in Dolby Surround on most of the discs. The idea was to create a link between the images of the landscapes, castles, museums, cathedrals and other scenes and the music of the great composers who were inspired by them. The series was well done and joined many other laserdiscs from labels such as RCA and Philips, which attempted to present concert music videos with alternate images to the usual shots of the orchestra in the concert hall.

Laserdisc was an extremely niche format and sales were poor of these discs, so all the labels have been hesitant to offer anything along these lines until now, when music DVDs – at only slightly more cost than a music CD – seem to provide a much better experience.  The public’s increased interest in classical music videos has made it possible for DVD alternatives to the typical live concert performance to be produced.  Naxos has dubbed their new venture “A Musical Journey,” the videos are of the highest quality, and the musical selections are now process for either DTS 5.1 or Dolby Digital 5.1 playback if you have a surround system. So far the new series has hour-long DVDs on London, Finland, Madrid/Toledo, Seville/Granada, St. Petersburg, and the one I sampled herewith on the Moscow area.  If you want to stretch the 4:3 image to 16:9 it seems to work quite well, giving a more impressive vista on the many landscape scenes.

The Moscow DVD has 16 chapters and I’ll give a summary of some of them. The music accompanying each chapter is listed in the eight-page included booklet, but the performing orchestras and soloists are not identified. However, the particular CD order number is listed, so you can get the entire recording if you wish, or learn who the performers are.

Chapter 1 starts with Red Square, of course, and the Kremlin, plus some early 20th century Russian paintings plus the tomb of Boris Godunov. The music is the Andante from the Kalinnikov’s Tsar Boris. Chapter 2 is more paintings by five different Russian paintings, some of them showing influences of the French Impressionists. Music is the folksong Dark Eyes. Chapter 3 is Moscow in Winter and Chapter 4 is Moscow at night in winter. Music is from Arensky’s Piano Trio No. 1 in d minor and the Russian folksong Snow falls in the street.  It does, in between the chaotic vehicle traffic streaming along them, looking worse than Manhattan!  (When I was in Moscow with a student tour in 1957 there was only an occasional big truck on stilts. What a difference now!)

The Moscow Conservatory of Music is visited, and we tour some of the halls and classrooms. Each chapter has a paragraph on the scenes filmed, and interesting background material such as on the different styles of Soviet architecture, and on the Russian composers buried in the Novodevichiy Cemetery – including Prokofiev, Scriabin and Shostakovich. The cluster of historic towns northeast of Moscow is visited in the following chapters, and we see details of buildings in the kremlin (fortress) of each town. The last chapter is a visit to Tchaikovsky’s Summer House in Klin, accompanied by his Valse sentimentale heard on flute and harp.

 – John Sunier

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