It is
possible to find a fine expression of this in Attrazione d’amore, a
film by the director Frank Scheffer, which features the work of the
world-renowned conductor Riccardo Chailly. The series of Juxtapositions DVDs
released by Ideale Audience offers pairings of music films that are often
unique. Scheffer’s work is already represented on a single disc that
collects Conducting Mahler and I Have Lost Touch with the
and in the present DVD he returns to Mahler’s music and
also explores the work of Luciano Berio. In the notes that accompany the
disc, Jessica van Tijn states that in the former film, “Scheffer wants
to introduce the viewers to the great tradition of classical music and
exciting innovations of modern composers through the eyes and ears of a
passionate conductor and his fantastic orchestra.” To do so, Scheffer
draws on various works, including Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,
which frames the film, Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466,
Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, Puccini’s Tosca (from
a production that involved Malfitano, Margison, and Terfel), VarËse’s
Ameriques, and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. In fact, Scheffer
carefully placed examples from the works at strategic points in the film, so
that excerpts from Tosca are not found in one segment, and music from all
five movements of Mahler’s Fifth intersect the beginning, middle, and
concluding segments of this carefully constructed film.

While Scheffer devoted a portion of his film I Have Lost Touch with
the World
to the work of Chailly, Attrazione d’amore
offers further documentation of the conductor’s association with the
Concertgebouw Orchestra. The tenth anniversary of Chailly’s work with
the Concertgebouw provided the opportunity to make this film, which serves as
a fine tribute to the relationship. While the music is paramount in the film,
Scheffer also provides a judicious selection of interviews with Chailly to
convey a sense of the conductor’s perspective on his art and its

Chailly’s love for the music emerges in his work, and the comments
that the late Luciano Berio contributed to the film reveal the esteem the
great modern composer had for a conductor who simultaneously embraces
tradition and also champions new music. Such passions are not incompatible,
and the fact that Chailly feels so strongly about both is further evidence of
his devotion to music. His comments about the nature of music as an art that
must emerge dynamically out of the air leads him to believe in the importance
of individual experience in apprehending it. Beyond the physical limitations
that exist with paintings and sculpture, music is recreated each time it is
heard, and that element underscores the importance of tradition with regard
to performance. At the same time Chailly makes it clear that he prefers
musical substantiated than novelty that exists for its own sake, and his
candor on this matter is quite welcome.

Yet the value of this video is not just in preserving Chailly’s
expressed credo, but also in his work as a conductor. In the various clips,
which come mainly from performances, it is possible to see his enthusiasm and
watch him interact with performers. This gives a sense of Chailly’s
charisma as a conductor, an element that emerges in the performances
excerpted here. While the film is overtly about Chailly’s work with the
Concertgebouw, it also offers a wonderful survey of important works that are
essential to the repertoire. The choice of music seems difficult, especially
when both the conductor and his ensemble exhibit a wide range of strengths.
Yet it is important to view the chosen works for their historic breadth,
which extends from Bach to VarËse, with an effective performance of the St.
Matthew Passion framing the video.

One of the critical works represented is VarËse’s Ameriques, which
shows Chailly’s enthusiasm for the piece, as well as his ability to
give it shape. His insights about the position of VarËse have yet to be borne
out, and it may that convincing performances like his will help to establish
a stronger place for the composer in the repertoire. Chailly’s openness
to new music and contemporary composers may be also perceived in the comments
about him by the late Luciano Berio. Berio qualifies his judgment about
Chailly in expressing his esteem for the intelligence with which the
conductor approaches music, and it is, at bottom, this deeper knowledge that
ultimately emerges in Chailly’s expressed comments and the leadership
he brought to the Concertgebouw.

With the other film, Voyage to Cythera, Scheffer explores modern music by
using the work of Berio as a point of departure. This film is, perhaps, more
cinematic than some of his others about music, with some memorable nature
images underscoring the sounds. In contrast to the images of the Berio shaded
blue, the golden-hued scenes that involve water or nature scenes seem
surrealistic. Moreover, the shots of Berio in his studio, with the camera
capturing the names of various composers on the spines of scores aptly
matches some of the passages of his Sinfonia, where the music relies
on traditional ideas from Mahler and others in its expressive modernism. The
flickering of the light that Scheffer uses for other images sometimes
approximates the tempos of the music, to create a fine synthesis of sound and
image. Effects like these lend further interest to the film.

Beyond that, Voyage to Cythera serves as a tribute to Berio’s
contributions to the musical tradition that Mahler represented with his
eclectic style. Berio exhibits a similar eclecticism in his use of various
elements within his own pieces, which also reflect the continuities he
espouses in the course of the interviews Scheffer included in this film.
Moreover, Riccardo Chailly attests to the significance of this aspect of
Berio’s work in an excerpted interview. Yet the segue between his
comments about Berio and the example from Schoenberg’s Five Pieces
for Orchestra
seems to be a bit of a leap without some further
explanation of the linkage seems out of place, especially with the
interjections from various pieces. The sound-montage returns to the
Sinfonia, which certainly deserves the kind of attention that
Scheffer offers, and it would have been ideal to include a performance of
that work with the present DVD.

That aside, this is a fine DVD, which forms an intriguing set wth
Scheffer’s other release in the Juxtapositions series, the one which
collects Conducting Mahler with I Have Lost Touch with the
. There is another short subject, though, which the packaging of
Attrazione d’amore/Voyage to Cythera, a piece entitled Ring
that is listed on the DVD cover. Yet the piece is not included with the track
listings and the navigation on the disc. No matter, the stated contents have
much to offer in the two films by Frank Scheffer, who promises to be a fine
source for capturing the attraction of classical music in images. Those
interested in Berio’s music will want to consult Voyage to
, particularly for the interviews with composer himself and also
Louis Andriessen.

Yet Attrazione d’amore is, perhaps, a stronger film for the
enthusiasm it contains about classical music and the living tradition in
which Chailly and the Concertgebouw belong. It is rare to find such a
spirited film about music which can be appreciated by a wide range of
viewers. For some, it can serve as an effective introduction to classical
music, while those familiar with the composers and works represented should
enjoy the level of performance that Chailly achieved with the Concertgebouw
in the music as found in this film.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

product_by=Directed by Frank Scheffer with Riccardo Chailly, Luciano Berio and Louis Andriessen
product_id=Juxtapositions DVD9DS12 [DVD]