“New Century, the Movie, Sizzles”

Review by Janos Gereben, San Francisco Classical Voice

How do you do justice to the twin volcanos of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra? Just follow them with a camera and show it all. The deed is done, and the result is spectacular. On Our Way is a good title, but in need of something specific, so the self-explanatory The Journey of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra was added to the DVD soon to be published.

The work by CounterPoint Films and NSS Music is masterful every way — structure, audio and video quality, and continually engages and interests; everything is covered. The film is both a documentary of the group’s recent history and footage of the ensemble’s tour concert in Santa Monica. The on-the-road scenes are reminiscent of Freeway Philharmonic, former home of some NCCO players, but the vast majority of the film consists of performances.
Thoughtfully, the DVD opens with an option to view the entire film or only the concert portions. This allows to see everything on first pass, and then run the concert performances only, without the need to search for them in the body of the film.

The DVD has — to return to the volcanic simile — the dangerous beauty and exciting grandeur of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, except here both Mt. Nadja and Mt. Ensemble are constantly erupting; nothing is dormant here. Be sure to allow time after first viewing for a quick nap to recover from the experience. The DVD features a few scenes from rehearsals and orchestra tours, backstage moments, including what is called in the press release as “candid comments” from the musicians. I couldn’t find anything salacious, alas.

Performances include Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade; Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires; Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48, Alfred Schnittke’s Polka; and “Bess, Yo’ Is My Woman Now,” from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It all bubbles, sizzles, bounces off the walls, and overflows the banks of the ordinary.

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