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DVD International presents
Mozart Piano Concertos Nos. 13 & 20: A Naxos Musical Journey (1993)

"The musical legacy of Salzburg is enhanced by its fame as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birthplace. This legendary Austrian city is also noted for its rich architecture and the wonders of its surrounding mountains, lakes and countrysides."
- From the keepcase blurb

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: June 01, 2001

Stars: Jeno Jando
Other Stars: Concertus Hungaricus, Andras Ligeti, conductor
Director: G. Gachot, H.T. Aschwanden

Manufacturer: Alpha DVD
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 00h:56m:04s
Release Date: February 17, 2001
UPC: 647715100924
Genre: classical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ AAA- D-

DVD Review

In another of DVD International's continuing series of Naxos Musical Journeys, we get a pair of less-well-known piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The music forms the background for a tour of Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace, and its environs. Both the music and the scenery are gorgeous and make for a very pleasing followup disc. As usual, Naxos house pianist Jeno Jando handles the virtuoso part deftly.

Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K. 415, is a 1783 concerto from the mature Mozart. The opening Allegro is sprightly and delicate, without being marred by bombast or excessive dramatics. The Andante second movement at times seems a little bit precious, although these moments are fleeting and answered by a more grave sound that seems to be scolding the pianist to behave himself. Wrapping matters up is a jolly finale set to scenes of Mozart's birth-house and various paintings of the master as a child virtuoso and an adult composer.

Contrasting the overall merry mood of the previous concerto is the 1785 Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. The minor key mode is emphasized by the visuals which transport us from the Salzburg of summer to the snow-covered and frozen city of the Alpine winter. Although the device seems a trifle obvious, it is nonetheless effective. Here Mozart's opening Allegro aspires to Beethovenish drama. This movement is particularly notable as being one of the longest of the opening movements of Mozart's concerti. However, the structure remains clear and Jando's playing is brisk and never allows the material to drag. The second movement Romance is set to scenes on the ice of the nearby lakes and rivers, and has the delicate character of a snowflake. A bit sentimental, yes, but undeniably beautiful and effective. The windup is an Allegro Assai that carries away the gloom of the first movement completely and holds out the promise of returning springtime.

The accompanying orchestra is competent throughout, if not outstanding. The prolific Jando continues his workmanlike series of pianistic endeavors, playing flawlessly but without being emotionally involving (though, as in the second movement of Concerto No. 20, there are exceptions).

The photography is excellent, with plenty of closeup detail of artwork and architecture as well as long and medium shots to give variety. A few aerial sequences are quite breathtaking and make one long to visit the Austrian city.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture on this edition of the Naxos Musical Journeys is quite excellent throughout. Color is often eye-popping, and the picture is sharp without edge enhancement. Black levels are very good indeed, and even the very difficult subject matter of running water and fog are rendered without notable digital artifacts of any kind. This is probably the best of the series thus far in terms of video quality. Indeed, at times this looks as good as the demo material on the Video Essentials disc.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0(n/a)yes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is quite pleasing on this disc. Hiss and noise are quite unnoticeable. The 448 kBps DD and 1509 kBps DTS 5.1 tracks are virtually indistinguishable, though the DTS has a slight edge in rendering the warmth of the piano's lower range. Both will make the listener happy indeed. There is little bass that requires an LFE track in this music, so don't expect much in that regard. The 2.0 Dolby Surround track is slightly thinner sounding, but still good for those without 5.1 decoders. Music comes from all channels without readily detectable directionality. While this disc does not suffer from the early cutoffs at the ends of movements that afflicted other discs in the series, the pauses between movements are still too brief to permit the listener to change gears. However, this is a huge improvement, resulting in a better grade than I've typically been giving this series.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 6 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Travel notes
  2. Previews of other DVD International discs
Extras Review: Extras, as usual in this series, are scant. There is a brief two-screen bio of Mozart. The travel notes are a bit more substantial that typical in this set, but the disc is still burdened with the ridiculous 'E-Z Menu' system that makes it impossible to easily go from the music to the travel notes and back; one must always return to the beginning of the movement, which is particularly annoying in the 14-minute-plus Allegro of the Concerto no. 20. The Extras Grade would be a D+ if not for this awkward and silly menu system. To assist the viewer, following is a list of the highlights of what is seen in the video portion of the presentation:

1. Views of Salzburg, Cathedral, Neptune Fountain
2. Hohensalzburg Fortress and Mirabell Palace Gardens
3. Mozart birthplace and paintings
4. Village of St. Wolfgang, where Mozart's mother was born
5. Schloss Leopoldskron
6. Village of Weissensee

As in the case of the other discs in the series, there is no region coding.

DVD International includes previews of other discs in the series, namely the Naxos Musical Journey series, Video Essentials, Mars: The Red Planet, Earthlight: Special Edition, Aquaria, Tender Loving Care and More Tales of the City.

This would be an excellent disc if the travel notes were provided in the form of removeable subtitles, perhaps with a second subtitle track for commentary on the music. As it is, however, this is one of the best-produced Naxos Musical Journeys we've seen yet.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

An attractively photographed series of views of Salzburg in summer and winter, with a compentent musical performance. Although the extras are not notable, this is still a very nice disc with an excellent video and audio transfer.


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