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...and to think I was looking forward to this garbage.
on December 12, 2005
After four months of waiting, I couldn't have been more dissapointed when this documentary finally aired on PBS. In matters filmmaking, it was just plain sloppy. Transitions were rough and camera angles were questionable. But the real travesty was in the documentary's content. I don't think anyone could have produced a poorer representation of what actually went on at the Cliburn.
Of course, being co-produced by the Cliburn Foundation, it would have been innapropriate for the documentary-makers to include any of the controversy that went on outside the concert hall involving Kaplinsky (however relevant it was to what went on inside). Their job (apparently) was to tell the story of the competition through a few select contestants. And what two contestants did they focus on the most? Maria Mazo and Davide Cabassi. WHAT!? That doesn't make any sense. It seemed like half the documentary was spent alone on what music means to Maria Mazo. SHE DIDN'T EVEN MAKE THE FINALS! I almost lost it when Mazo and (I think) Claude Frank indulged in a lengthy, and very very scripted conversation about Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata. I guess Mazo was the only one who really "got into the heart of the music."
As far as actual footage of performance goes, there wasn't much of it. And of the little there was, none of it was all that extraordinary. They did spend a lot of time at the host houses, where Cabassi's charming personality really found a place in the hearts of the filmmakers. Well, at least he made the finals. I also seem to remember a lot of time spent at the Hoe-down they threw for all of the people involved in the Cliburn. Shouldn't the filmmakers be focused primarily on the contestants' preparation and practice for the competition when focusing on events outside the concert hall. I would have much rather seen these people sitting and practicing their pieces really slowly than giggling and dancing around like idiots.
All of the finalists played over three hours worth of repertoire, so surely there was more to show of Kobrin's playing than the little section of his Rach Rhapsody. And most of the off-stage footage of him consisted more of his relationship with Cabassi. Surely there's a story there, about how this dorkly little shy guy goes and wins the Cliburn.
I also remember very little of Sa Chen's playing, even though she received the Crystal. That would have been another great story, to include how she recovered from two rather awkward and embarrassing on-stage moments (her botched last note of Schumann's Carnaval and her huge memory mistake in the fugue of the Barber sonata) to perservere and play well enough to win third. These stories would have been much more interesting and relevant than anything having to do with Maria Mazo.
The biggest dissapointed of all, I thought though, was the COMPLETE lack of focus on Roberto Plano, who was a finalist. All of the other finalists got more air time, and of course Maria Mazo got more than anyone. The documentary played only 30 seconds Plano discussing the Rach 2 with Conlon, and NONE of his playing. This after Plano delivered, hands down, one of the most amazing and moving performances in his semi-final recital. It's hard to believe these filmmakers were actually at the Cliburn. There were also several other performances from earlier rounds that had lots of people talking, like Sa Chen's Gaspard. There were also many competitors the didn't even make the semi-finals who delivered staggering performances in the first round. I guess they would rather show Mazo's Hammerklavier. Also, Joyce Yang won the piano quintet award, why didn't they show any footage of her Dvorak? Instead they showed a little bit of Mazo's Schumann quintet.
I could go on like this forever. I can't think of any possible reason for anyone to shell out 30 bucks on this crap, unless they include concerto performances from the winners. (Even then, I certainly wouldn't want to watch Joyce Yang bang out her way through an incomprehensible Prokofiev 2)
Whatever happened to Peter Rosen? He made other documentaries for the Cliburn which turned out very good. Who is this Andy Sommer guy?
In conclusion, don't buy it. IT'S SERIOUSLY THIS BAD.