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Schubert - The Trout / The Greatest Love And The Greatest Sorrow
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'Christopher Nupen s classic film of one extraordinary event in 1969 is here paired with his portrait of Schubert - very different, yet equally compelling. The Trout... manages to preserve the atmosphere of a magical day, portraying the youthful performers - now all legends in their own way - brimming over with fun both on and off stage. ...Nupen's inspired filming gets right to the heart of the performance. The Greatest Love and the Greatest Sorrow also seeks the essence of its subject... The music is fabulously performed...' ---BBC Music Magazine
I doubt if the sheer fun of music-making has ever been better conveyed... --The Guardian
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It consists of 2 contrasting documentaries. The first is "The Trout," dating from 1969 which includes the now well known recording of Schubert's "Trout Quintet" made in August 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall during the South Bank Summer Festival. It is the product of 5 young friends and rising stars who together with Christopher Nupen decided to record one of their joint concerts for posterity. It features Daniel Barenboim on Piano, Itzhak Perlman on violin, Pinchas Zuckerman on viola, Jacqueline du Pré on cello and Zubin Mehta on double bass. We get to see the rehearsals and then the backstage banter as well as the complete performance of their now famous live concert. A great sense of fun, geniality and friendship permeates the performance and the film as a whole. As Jacqueline du Pré poignantly says in her audio introduction to the film, it will remain "a statement of our happiness, forever."
The second documentary dates from 1994 and is titled, "The Greatest Love And The Greatest Sorrow." It tells of the last 20 months of Schubert's life and tries to bring audiences a closer understanding of his emotional state during that time and how it affected the kind of music he produced in those final months. It is not done in the form of a traditional music documentary. We are not fed dates, compositions and life events. Rather we are given readings from Schubert's diary, his correspondences, the lyrics of his songs and the farewell letters he eventually sent to his friends and family. This is accompanied by a continuous flow of the music he composed during this time, without any indication (at least until the final credits) of what is being played. Various performers are featured here. Vladimir Ashkenazy plays several of the sonatas and piano pieces. Andreas Schmidt sings the various lieder and the Petersen Quartet perform several of the larger chamber works. The film opens with the quiet grandeur of the Kyrie from the B flat Mass. It closes with an audio recording of Lotte Lehman singing "Im Abendrot" as the sunset fades into darkness. The overall mood is dark and sombre. It will appeal most to dedicated fans of Schubert and those who have some idea of what his final works are like and want a closer appreciation of what contributed to their genesis. It is less likely to appeal to viewers who buy it on the basis of the preceeding Trout Quintet. The music is worlds apart. The Trout was composed in Schubert's youth and brims with joy while the works featured in the second documentary are valedictory, elegiac and often deeply sad. But the DVD overall gives an idea of the wide scope of Schubert's musical output.
The 55min long documentary "The Trout" is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullscreen. Picture quality is pretty good considering its age. The opening and closing credits fare less well with overly high contrast and graininess but the concert itself looks just fine with good color saturation and deep blacks. The 80min long documentary "The Greatest Love And The Greatest Sorrow" is in 1.78:1 widescreen (anamorphic). Picture quality is excellent. Sound is in an uncompressed linear PCM stereo. Optional English, German, French, Spanish and Italian subtitles are included. Christopher Nupen gives separate introductions to both films while we get an audio introduction to "The Trout" by Jacqueline du Pre. The accompanying trailer "Molto Allegro" which showcases upcoming Nupen films runs for 38mins. As usual with Opus Arte, the set comes with a beautifully illustrated 24 page booklet.
An essential purchase for du Pré fans but also an interesting pair of documentaries for Schubert afficionados.
The second film, about Schubert's last twenty months on this earth, conveys both tragedy and palpable beauty. But I must say that although I was SO impressed with Ashkenazy's playing (and the camerawork, notable for its rapt stillness, is superb) and that of the other artists, it was trumped by the uncredited performance at the film's end of Lotte Lehmann singing 'Im Abendrot,' a recording I've loved for over fifty years. I was in tears.
Thank you, Mr Nupen. You are undoubtedly the best classical music documentarian we have.
I have Jacqueline du Pre's one, that is outstanding, and now I have finally the possibility of watching this remarkable document that I knew it was great because other music lovers written commentaries on the web.
What we have here is a concerto and a documentary, both of them filmed by Nupen, the concert in 1969 and the documentary in 1994.
The concert is really outstanding, my favourite version together with the one played by the Hagen Quartett joining Posch & Schiff (Decca). Recorded in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the South Bank Summer Festival; the performance it's technically a prodigy and it sounds with the great charm and freshness this players used to have in the late `60s, like we can listen in other chamber pieces played by them, in EMI, for example, in which is audible their great feeling playing together and the very close view on many works they have, like it's this case. Perlman's playing is vivid and perfect, full of life and energy; du Pre's one is so outstanding like most of the recordings she done; Zukerman is really a surprise playing the viola, not because we don't know he is very good, but doing it this way so young is not easy at all, if we think he really is a violin player; Mehta gives his best and that's good enough in a ensemble in which it was supposed he should be the weak piece, because of the many years he didn't play the double bass, anyway he do it really very well, as his partners happiness shows at the end of the concert. But the one who I think leads the ensemble is Daniel Barenboim, because of the way he has of looking the other players, and because of the rhythm and sense he gives to the piece and to the group from the keyboard.
Nupen introduced every musician before the concert, showing them arrival to London and the way the choose even their instruments, like it was Zukerman's case. I know in that time it was not very well seen, many people thought it was not very serious, much more because of the very relaxed attitude of the players, but I found it funny and a good example about making classical music it's serious but not boring at all. Their jokes, their commentaries, their songs... show a group of young people in their best time, with all a great musical life to be developed... what is really sad is knowing today the case of du Pre, that's really the worse, not if their behaviour is serious or not.
The documentary "The Greatest Love And The Greatest Sorrow" is based on Schubert last months of life, from Beethoven burial in Vienna, March 1827, a fact that affected Schubert very much, as Beethoven was a kind of God and musical father for him. I don't find it so good like other Nupen's films, even the own composer says it took a lot of time to be done, because it was complex to develop it the way they wanted, joining together Schubert music, most of them lieder, and texts. The musical base is Ashkenazy playing the piano with Andreas Schmidt singing Schubert Lieder, quite good really. Nupen tries to go into Schubert's mind through his letters, through the music close to that writing and through the editing of a way that shows the pain and joy that lived together on the composer's soul, basically about his family, about music and about his "problems" in love. It's a good work, with great sound and image quality, but is not outstanding.
Even in the backside of the DVD is written that both films are framed on 4:3, that's false, because 4:3 is only the concert; the documentary is shot in 16:9, so you should put it in this format on your TV if you want to watch it correctly. Subtitles are available in English, German, French, Spanish and Italian, and the booklet is very good too. I can not forget mention the very good trailer of other Nupen's films that is in this DVD, like it's on du Pre's one. I hope most of that films can be released on DVD.