The Art of Violin: The Devil's Instrument / Transcending The Violin
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A documentary history of the violin in the 20th century featuring archival footage of many of the instrument's greatest players. Includes contributions from Yehudi Menuhin, Ida Haendel and Hilary Hahn.
A documentary film by Bruno Monsaingeon devoted to the 20th century's greatest violinists, The Art of Violin really cannot be faulted. The same, incidentally, can also be said of the similar volumes that cover the piano and singing, so there's never been a better time to collect a personal audio-visual archive of some wonderful historical performers. The added dimension provided by the painstakingly collected film material (here featuring no fewer than 20 outstanding soloists) is of exceptional value when observing violin technique, and the diversity of approaches presented here in loving detail is in itself a subject for endless comparison. The material mixes archive performance footage, much of which one might never have dreamed existed, with interviews and documentary commentary. However, rather than turn the project into a museum piece, Monsaingeon includes contributions from contemporary figures such as Itzhak Perlman and Hilary Hahn. An absolute must. --Roger Thomas, Amazon.co.uk
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Not all violinists indulge in pyrotechnics with their million-dollar toys. Kreisler, for example always played from the heart, you can tell. Christian Ferras had a great deal of sensitivity and feeling. But Heifetz? I have never heard him play with feeling. It has nothing to do with his body language (as Perlman seems to suggest on this DVD) because I came to this conclusion years ago just from listening to LPs. Can you imagine him playing the Meditation from Thais? Here is another example of the voice of the angel. I have heard other celebrity violinists butcher this piece. First, there is no opportunity for bravura display, so they don't have the patience for it. Secondly, they have been playing pyrotecnics so long they forgot how to play cantabile. Very often, it is the almost unknown concertmaster of the orchestra, who humbly plays his (or hers) heart out and brings out the tears of the audience with this piece.
The bias that the producer of this DVD had should be obvious to most listeners. The choice of the items were mostly from the fast movements. Even the Cesar Franck sonata, a most sensitive and deeply felt piece is presented here with the only light movement (the final) and (in my opinion) Oistrakh completely missed the grudging acceptance of all that pain that permeated the three previous movements. In this connection, I had recently an experience that might be interesting to musicians who want to gauge the taste of their audience. There was a concert of a well-respected string quartet and they introduced an "a la carte" program: the audience got to choose 5 individual movements out of about 25 being offered. When the results of the ballots were announced, the quartet players were much surprised to find that all 5 were slow movements, with Debussy 's (3rd movement) and Beethoven's Cavatina (from Op. 130) heading the list. No chance for pyrotechnics here!
So, in conclusion, if you care for violin music whose beauty touches you deeply, this DVD is not for you.
In general this DVD is worth the money. Nowhere else will you get several hours devoted to the violin greats of the 20th century. In this day of digital videos and recordings, we take for granted that everything from a child's first recital to a debut in Carnegie Hall will be captured in living color, with CD's cut for parents to listen to. But when you look back there are so few films of the greats such as Heifetz, Kreisler, none of Ysaye, and the sound, even when remastered or enhanced, cannot escape the submarine-like feel of the recording capabilities of the early 20th century. However when you see the virtuosity being demonstrated it is still incredible.
Itzhak Perlman and Hilary Hahn do a magnificant job of narrating. And since the film was shot shortly before Menuhin's death in 1999, and finished afterwards, it is fitting that the 20th century closed with Menuhin, and this film was kind of a tribute to Menuhin. However in no way was it all about Menuhin, many are covered, even Michael Rabin and Ginette Neveu whose careers were shortened due to tragedy.
With all the narrating by Perlman, I was only a little disappointed that they did not feature his playing. But I guess this leaves another DVD for the violin geniuses of today for later.
Itzhak Perlman, Ivry Gitlis, Ida Haendel and Hilary Hahn are among the commentators.
Very exciting and entertaining for any classical music fans
Most part of the film are black and white. Sound is pretty good. English, French, Spanish and Japanese subtitles are available. For some reason, may be his national pride, Monsaingeon's film always make a few people in the film speak French even they are fully capable of English so you have to turn on English subtitle.