Designed for the ill-fated Laser Disc format, the series of DVDs titled "A Naxos Musical Journey" is now represented by the first six offerings issued by DVD International: <Bach> (DVDI 0991) with three of his works and the scenery of four parts of Italy, <Handel> (DVDI 0992) with his "Water Music" and "Fireworks" Suites and the scenery of parts of England, <Italian Festival> (DVDI 0993) with the music of several composers [only one of which is Italian], <Mozart> (DVDI 0994) with his Symphonies No. 49 and 28 and three overtures and the scenery of the Southern Tyrol and Austria, <Spanish Festival> (DVDI 0995) with the music of Chabrier, Glinka, Massenet, and Rimski-Korsakov , and finally <Vivaldi> (DVDI 0996) with his "Four Seasons" and a Concerto in D minor and the scenery of northern Europe and Scotland.
It is strange that native composers were not chosen in so many cases, especially in the one dedicated to Spain where we have two Russian and two French selections, however good they might be. But the most famous Swiss music ever written was composed by Rossini, so what the hey!
First the minuses. These sets were designed for the music and the visual without any reference to specifics. By this I mean, there are no subtitles to let you know where in Europe you are or what music is being played. Since there is a "Random Order" option, your player will not display the track being shown. I found this quite annoying at first viewing and had to keep my eye on the back of the DVD case to try to find where I was musically--where I was geographically was quite impossible.
Now I am told by a gentleman from DVD International that many persons have already commented on this lack of features; and I am told that all future releases will remedy what the producers did not but what many viewers did consider a problem.
As for what we DO have, it is marvelous. The music is played competently to splendidly by European groups such as the Capella Istropolitana, the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony, and other players familiar to owners of Naxos CD recordings. As for the video portion, I cannot praise it too highly, except for my not being told where on earth such beauty exists.
When the titles are added, this series will make a fantastic teaching tool for geography periods in the lower grades (why not let the tiny tots learn about the beauty of the world and of its great music at the same time?) and even for higher-class restaurants to play for diners. Come to think of it, even the untitled releases will work beautifully in the latter case.