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Austria's Dynamo

A brief history of
the Salzburg Festival -
reviewed by

'... mandatory viewing!'

The Salzburg Festival - A Brief History. © 2006 Isolde Films / Digital Classics plc

Palmer's comprehensive dissection and chronology of The Salzburg Festival is a compelling document for a variety of reasons; but none so much as its breathtaking wealth of archival footage and uniquely informed commentary.

Well beyond the hubhub of frenetic European capitals, the Salzburg Festival has long been recognized as a drawcard by foremost directors and artists. For six weeks every summer nearly 180 performances are on offer -- operatic, symphonic, solo, chamber and drama [watch and listen -- chapter 1, 0:00-1:26].

Now, with this stunning production a who's who of conductors, singers, instrumentalists, politicians, international arts commentators and musicologists bring a multi-faceted perspective with an authoritative, overarching summation, while numerous eminent musicians are seen in both historical and modern footage, offering their diversity of viewpoints on the festival -- both past and present.

Among the more notable of these are von Karajan, Karl Böhm, Wilhelm and Elisabeth Furtwängler, Plácido Domingo, Hans Knappersbusch, Wilhelm Backhaus, Grace Bumbry, Richard Strauss, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Mitsuko Uchida, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Riccardo Muti, Clemens Krauss, Lotte Lehmann, Alfred Brendel, Seiji Ozawa, Valery Gergiev, Christa Ludwig, Daniel Barenboim, Senja Jurinac, Mariss Janssons, Ann Sophie Mutter, Rudolf Baumgartner, Claudio Abbado, Maurizio Pollini, Zubin Mehta, Wilma Lipp, Simon Rattle, Mirella Freni, Anna Netrebko, Maria von Trapp, James Levine, and 'Jederman' actors -- Karl Maria Brandauer and Maximillian Schell.

A scene from 'Jederman'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Isolde Films/Digital Classics plc
A scene from 'Jederman'. DVD screenshot © 2006 Isolde Films/Digital Classics plc

Jederman ('Everyman' -- an English morality play -- adapted by Hoffmanstahl) prefaces successive festivals and serves as a leitmotif throughout Palmer's arts 'doco', while popular American musical historian Michael Steinberg draws together historical undercurrents that shape the festival.

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Copyright © 2 August 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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