Mstation Classical Reviews

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Wed, 01 Oct 2008

Haydn, Handel DVD's

This month I had a look at two DVD's from Arthaus Musik featuring Handel's Messiah and Hayden's The Creation - two quite religious themes which I happened to watch on a Sunday. This made me feel quite good as I do actually go to church but haven't managed it much lately.

I had noticed Arthaus a few years back as they caught my eye with various offerings and in the meantime they have grown quite a lot and have recently acquired the TDK name as well so their catalogue has suddenly grown large and has quite a nice quality feel to it.

One of the problems with music DVD's has been the production. We shouldn't have any qualms about looking at the scenes as that's what we do when we attend concerts or operas although, I imagine, there are quite a few people who don't watch very closely during a concert. The problem has been one of perspective - operas, for example, are staged and costumed to be watched from a certain distance and if a camera is up a soloist's nose, everything that has been carefully planned by the makeup and costume people goes out the window and we're frequently left with this rather exagerrated figure. Similarly, the staging frequently looks a little silly when subjected to a closeup view. As well as that, the mental soundstage becomes confused as we trip around the hall with no change in the sound qualities. What to do? It's actually quite difficult. With new recordings (and many of the issues are from TV recordings of the past - The Creation is from 1992) a proper soundfield could be recorded and the mix altered accordingly with the camera cuts... but subtly and not to the full real affect. Stages and makeup designed for the event would be good as well. One problem with all this is that it would cost a fortune and so there would be a likelihood of a very limited repertoire - one that many, in advance, would regard as dumbed down. We shall see what, if anything, happens.

Haydn's The Creation was filmed in a lovely Rococco church somewhere (couldn't find any reference in the notes as to where) with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Festival Choir of Lucerne, with Peter Schreier conducting. It is rather a nice piece of music and sounded quite lovely in the old church. In this work there also echoes of the work of the subject of the other DVD for the month - namely Mr. Handel. We have a little double-dotting and a few trills from the singers but this is its own work and comparisons of this kind can be odious - best to enjoy it for what it is.

Handel's Messiah is as well-known a piece of music as you can get. This version is from the Brandenburg Consort along with the choir of King's College Cambridge, and conducted by Stephen Cleobury. As Handel was from Halle in Brandenburg-Prussia, the former is a nice, though perhaps accidental, touch. It was shot at the Pieterskerk in Leiden, Netherlands, in 1993 and was a TV production originally. With those musical elements you'd hardly expect this to be anything other than a first class production - and so it is. (Baron K)

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