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Notes Interdites [DVD Video]

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From 1917 to 1990, the Soviet Union was the locus of a fascinating paradox which this film highlights: In a context of extreme material and psychological hardship, even terror, there flowered some of the richest, most intense musical activity of the twentieth century. Brilliant performers, major composers, great orchestras exercised their art during these 70 years in dangerous and precarious conditions that were sometimes grotesque, always grueling. The story of this period is the subject of our film, told by those who lived through it, and foremost among them, the Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Gennady Rozhdestvensky, born in 1931 to a conductor father and a singer mother, stood at the heart of this epic : Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Schnittke all dedicated work to him, he premiered such major works as Prokofiev's 4th Symphony, Shostakovich's opera "The Nose", based on Gogol, and symphonies by Schnittke. He has worked with the greatest performers, among them Oistrakh, Gillels, Richter and Rostropovich. He also survived the tyranny of the all-powerful Composers Union, the absurdities of Gosconcert, the first tours abroad, the persecution of Jewish musicians, the musical dictates of Stalin and Zhdanov, the insidious day-to-day terror... Oral accounts, archives and music are the ingredients with which we have recreated this extraordinary artistic and historical fresco.

Review

To sum up, I can say is that this is priceless stuff and fully worth the attention of serious listeners (and viewers) of classical music. -- Classical.net, Robert Cummings

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Rozhdestvensky
  • Directors: Bruno Monsaingeon
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Classical, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Ideale Audience
  • DVD Release Date: February 26, 2008
  • Run Time: 155 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0012K53UE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,596 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Mr. Louis Blois on March 17, 2008
Bruno Monsaingeon's two films, "Red Button" and "Gennady Rozhdestvensky: Conductor or Conjurer?" are contained on this DVD.

"Red Button" is built around two extensive interviews with two of the prominent Russian conductors of the past half century, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Rudolph Barshai. It features ongoing interviews with these men about their experiences during the postwar years of artistic repression in the SU. It contains numerous personal accounts and personal revelations that will at times even surprise the viewer who will already be familiar with the abhorrent events of the Zhdanov era and its aftermath. But here it is, recounted by the luminaries who actually were there to suffer its consequences.

The film includes fascinating file footage of Dmitri Shostakovich reading prepared texts at one of the public pony shows, and later, all too briefly, a shot of him in animated conversation with Rozhdesetvensky at a rehearsal of one of his works. We also see a youngish Tikhon Khrennikov delivering an address in his impassioned style, singing the praises of Stalin's draconian policies on the arts. We later see him accompanying himself on the piano to one of his folksy songs ("Alioka"?); and we also see a snip of the elder Khrennikov proclaiming that his intentions during his leadership years were ultimately for the protection of his fellow composers. This is followed by contradictory remarks by Rozhdestvensky, including a recounting of Khrennikov's wiley attempts at preventing Alfred Schnittke's First Symphony from receiving a performance.

The second film portrays Rozhdestvensky as a highly charismatic fellow, full of humor as well as a rich and articulate store of musical insight.
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The two documentaries on this disc paint a vivid picture of musical life during the 70 years of dictatorial Soviet rule. "The Red Baton" focuses on the doctrine of Socialist Realism to which artists in all media were expected to adhere. For musicians, this meant creating works that did not exhibit so-called "formalist" elements such as dissonance and atonality. Those who deviated from the party line were dealt with harshly, including public censure by the government-controlled media and the banning of many of their works. The film relies on the oral history of two key personalities who lived through many of the events: famed conductor Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and viola player Rudolf Barshai. Much of their testimony revolves around the notorious 1948 Congress of the Union of Soviet Composers, during which Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich and others were savagely denounced by Tikhon Khrennikov, leader of the composers union and widely perceived as a lackey of the ruling elite. Their remembrances are moving and tragic, although Rozhdestvensky also finds a measure of black humor in the hypocrisy and madness of the era. It's a fascinating document, but at 55 minutes is too short to really do justice to its subject, and doesn't account for the staggering amount of brilliant work achieved during those dark decades. The second film, "Gennadi Rozhdestvensky: Conductor or Conjuror?" is a less political, more personal look at the day-to-day business of music making, as the famous maestro is shown in his varied roles as conductor, performer, philosopher and mentor. Less ambitious than "The Red Baton," it's ultimately a more successful documentary, enlivened by Rozhdestvensky's down to earth charisma and sardonic humor.
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A fascinating pair of films about music, both featuring one of the most remarkable conductors of the 20th century: Gennady Rozhdestvensky. One film concerns musical life in a grimly fascinating period in history, Stalinist Russia, with Rozhdestvensky as a wonderful guide. The other film showcases Rozhdestvensky himself, and draws an excellent picture of his musicianship, personality, and experience of living and working in the USSR of the 1950s and beyond. A must-see for anyone interested in Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and really any aspect of what Boris Schwarz called "Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia."
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Rather disappointing on an extremely important subject : music under Stalin, music in the narrowly controlled autocratic and technocratic soviet branch of socialism. It sure proves one point: the control the Stalinist communist party in the USSR imposed on arts in general and music in particular.

But this does not explain why the USSR produced a tremendous proportion of top musicians, composers and conductors in the world in the whole 20th century. What made the USSR so dynamic and creative in music in spite of the totalitarian brand of socialism they developed? Does music need challenge to such a point that it cannot prosper if it is not under a stress artificially created by the hardship of life imposed from a-high in society, a stress that can be political, social, emotional, economic or whatever.

The stress is the inspiring element. That's the idea that emerges from this documentary because of the absence of real investigation of the question. The documents quoted here are essential to understand this period of the world's cultural history. Yet the best part remains the sections in which the director explores the job of a conductor, his psyche and his vision of himself, the music, his mission and his task as concerned by the audience.

An interesting documentary though probably not deep enough on the historical exploration of soviet cultural history.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
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