This DVD is part of the continuing series of Christopher Nupen films being released by BBC/Opus Arte. It is the second release to feature a documentary involving the late Jacqueline du Pré.
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.