Max Raabe and Palast Orchester: Dance & Film Music of 1920s (2007) Review
(More customer reviews)Max Raabe may not be everyone's glass of schnapps...still, since founding the Palast Orchester in 1986 as a 24-year-old music student who discovered he loved the popular music of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the songs written during the Weimar Republic, he has gone from success to success in his native Germany. He is a tall, reasonably handsome man with a trained baritone who can manage sustained high notes better than most tenors. This can give a rather odd, noteworthy texture to his singing...just like that of so many male singers of the period. His orchestra has 12 members, all male except for the gorgeous blond violinist. They always dress in formal attire, with Raabe changing from tux and wing collar to, after the intermission, full formal evening wear of white tie and tails. If he and his orchestra look like the classic, high society dance orchestras of the era he obviously loves and respects, it's because he chooses to. Most of the orchestra have been with him from the start.
While Raabe concentrates on the popular songs of the Twenties and Thirties, usually using the original orchestrations, he also writes songs himself and does pop covers of contemporary songs using the old orchestration styles. You can sample his stuff on YouTube. Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again" is especially, ah, noteworthy. In other words, Raabe has a sense of irony and humor...and I suspect he doesn't think much of a lot of contemporary pop songs. So is he an old man of 44, living in a past he never had? Hardly.
In this concert piece, filmed at a packed outdoor amphitheater before 20,000 Berliners, Raabe and his orchestra demonstrate why they are as good as they are. Raabe believes less is more, and he does nothing to dispel the illusion that while he himself is contemporary, what he does comes with a clever blending of respect and humor from the past. He is dry and good-natured, but will use a cocked eyebrow or a glance as often as he'll use words. He is amusing (and brief) in his song introductions, and he notes the composer and lyric writer of each song he sings, as well as the year it was written. The pattern most often then is Raabe fronts the orchestra and sings, then he immediately steps back and leans casually against the grand piano while the orchestra pays the song again, then he steps forward for a reprise...then he steps back, applause, a bow...and he moves on to the next song with a slight smile. You need to watch carefully because quite often the orchestra will be up to something unobtrusive and amusing, but always in character.
For those who already like Raabe and the popular music of that period, or might just now be getting to know him, this DVD is a bargain at the price (and it's not cheap). Even with the applause pared down considerably, the disc runs nearly two hours. There are 32 numbers and Raabe sings each one. The audience loved it. When a downpour occurred for 20 or so minutes, no one left their seats. The songs are mainly from Germany of the period. There are four or five American songs. You'll hear irony, romantic opportunity, rueful experience and joy, even love and tenderness...and seldom much sentimentality.
The DVD has a fine, sharp color transfer. The case includes a 12-page booklet. There are three short extras showing Raabe and the orchestra preparing for concerts in New York, Tokyo and Rome. Unless you understand German, the optional English subtitles are essential.
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MAX RAABE & PALAST ORCHESTER - DVD Movie