Mozart and the Dolomites (2006)

by | Nov 12, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Mozart and the Dolomites (2006)

A Visual Score of Mozart’s Requiem
By Jean-Charles Cuillandre
Performers: Soloists/Orchestra Praga Sinfonietta/Vox Prague Chorus/Miriam Nemcova cond.
Studio: Four Quarters Ent./Silva Screen SILDV 7008
Video: 16:9
All regions
Audio: Dolby Stereo 5.1, 2.0
Intertitles in English
Extras: The Making of the Recording, The Musicians, The Dolomites – the stars of the film!, Dolomites Slide Show (silent), Production notes
Length: 54 minutes + extras
Rating: *****

Many classical music laserdiscs were released which presented alternatives to the standard videos of concert performances. Some were extremely creative in pairing up unusual images with standard classical fare, while others were visionary photography or abstract images accompanied by New Age  music.  Very little of this has appeared in DVD form, perhaps because the laserdiscs sold poorly since only a tiny percentage of the public had the players to begin with. Naxos has only recently begun redoing its laserdisc series for DVD release.

This magnificent DVD sets a new standard for such combinations of beautiful images with classical music. Photographer Cuillandre traveled each year to the Dolomite region of northeastern Italy, photographing the impressive peaks in different seasons and at different times of day. He eventually worked with engineer Sideik Isani, who developed a portable system for producing time-lapse hi-def videography, and that is what makes the visuals in this presentation so much more compelling and watchable than any slide show showing still photography could possibly be.  The clouds provide the main action here as they form, race across the sky, skirting the peaks, but there are also changes in the shadows as the run rises and falls, in the colors of the mountains, and even in the ant-like scurrying figures of people climbing some of the peaks.

Instead of just selecting existing recordings of music to fit his images, director Cuillandre edited his many years’ worth of footage to sync up note for note with Mozart’s entire Requiem. And instead of using an existing recording of the work he arranged for a surround-sound recording session in Prague with some of the musicians experienced in doing hundreds of albums of soundtrack and other music for release by European and American record labels. The extras featurette with music producer James Fitzpatrick is fascinating; he is upfront about admitting that tho the technical facilities are not like what is readily available in London, the cost is so much less and the musicians so skilled that recording in Prague is a no-brainer. There’s even a map of the location of the various Dolomites, which is also printed in the accompanying color printed booklet.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and the camera movements add a great deal to the visual experience – it’s not something we are accustomed to with time-lapse photography.  The Dolomites cover a large area of Italy around the towns of Bergamo and Cortina, so there are many different vistas to shoot. Somehow the editing matches up creatively the different views with the appropriate sections of Mozart’s mass, contributing to the already powerful effect of the music.  The nighttime scenes with time-lapse images of the stars rotating in the sky behind the mountains are especially striking.

The detail in the images is high, the transfers seem without any artifacts at all.  The differences in resolution when running this DVD on my old CRT RPTV vs. my new enhanced DLP display were not subtle.  After watching this DVD a couple times, you may always have images of these mountains in your mind when you hear Mozart’s Requiem again, as I have dinosaur images whenever I hear Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring!

 – John Sunier

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