R. STRAUSS: – At the End of the Rainbow, Blu-ray (2015)

RICHARD STRAUSS: – At the End of the Rainbow, Blu-ray (2015) 

Film by Eric Schultz and interviews with relatives, famous musicians and Strauss experts, including Christian Strauss, Stefan Mickisch and Brigitte Fassbaender
Studio: Unitel Classica 759 [4/28/15] (Distr. by Naxos)
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD
Audio:  German and English PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish Chinese, Korean
Region free
Length: 97 minutes
Rating: ****

This Blu-ray disc, which serves as a visual and audio biography of Richard Strauss, is a compelling and beautifully assembled look at the great composer’s life and music.

With comments (in English and German) from Strauss experts and family members, the documentary also features some old newsreel and film footage of Strauss conducting, something I never expected to see. In some cases, the audio was not available, and the existing video was synced to audio recorded at the same time. It’s done very well.

R. Strauss (1864-1949) was, along with Mahler, an example of German romanticism that followed the works of Wagner. The comments from musicologists are interesting, and often give the viewer profound insights into the composer. I think it’s impossible to view this documentary without learning a great deal, and at times, I felt inspired by the music in ways I could not have been just listening to a CD.

There is vivid highlighting of the social forces that were tearing apart Germany while Strauss was at his creative peak, and the influence of Nietzsche on Strauss and his musical output.

Much of the arrival material is being presented publicly for the first time, including film of Strauss conducting the Olympic Hymn at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin in 1936. There are modern and period performances of Til Eulenspiegel, Salome, Don Juan, and much more.

The construction of this film is very well done, interspersing archival material with readings from Strauss’ diaries, biographical information, and modern performances of his works.

This is a stimulating biography from filmmaker Eric Schultz. The disc is made mainly for the German and the English-speaking market, so if you don’t want German select the second subtitle track which will give you english subtitles.  I would have preferred English narration, but this is still a compelling and worthwhile disc. The only audio offering is PCM stereo, which sounds fine on the contemporary examples, and as well as can be expected for the archival films and audio.

Highly recommended.

—Mel Martin

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