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Customer Review

on June 5, 2008
This is a two-hour BBC production from 2007 which originally aired in two parts. The DVD presents both parts separately as originally broadcast in the UK.

Mixing a documentary approach, dramatic recreations featuring actors, and conductor Charles Hazlewood conducting a young Russian orchestra performing Tchaikovsky in modern-day, this BBC production flows seamlessly and will immerse any viewer looking for historical coverage of Tchaikovsky, as well as other viewers simply looking for a dramatic tale of an historical legend. All the important aspects of Tchaikovsky's life and music are touched on, and the music is always given its time to breathe and enthrall. The only small quibble is that the sequences showing host-narrator Hazlewood conducting the modern orchestra are somewhat laughable. His conducting just comes off as a bit ridiculous looking (and I'm trying to be nice here) - otherwise, Hazlewood's host-narration segments are exemplary.

I'm a huge fan of Ken Russell's 1970 film THE MUSIC LOVERS starring Richard Chamberlain and Glenda Jackson (an incredible film that has many sequences recreated in this BBC production) and only hope that someday MGM will finally release a widescreen DVD edition of that film (although I've only been waiting 10 years already so I'm not holding my breath). If you haven't seen the film, seek out a dub off the old 2.35:1 widescreen laserdisc version as the old VHS is horribly pan-and-scanned and ruins all the compositions. The film may not get every historical detail correct and has been criticized for that, but it's still an amazing visual and musical tour-de-force that delivers the complete essence of Tchaikovsky and his music. It's an absolute masterpiece of filmmaking.

In the meantime, this BBC production brings back some of that magic and Tchaikovsky's music continues to be timeless. This BBC production is definitely superb. The DVD also includes a bonus 50-minute BBC production from 1993 called "Who Killed Tchaikovsky?" which tries to answer just that. It's interesting, and does include clips from Ken Russell's "THE MUSIC LOVERS" (but in pan-and-scan!), but overall this earlier BBC expose is kind of cheap and unpolished, especially compared to the main and primary BBC production on the DVD. So this bonus is simply an extra, so no complaining there.
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