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They Came to Play
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Multi-award winning THEY CAME TO PLAY focuses on the International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs (hosted by the Van Cliburn Foundation), which gathers together 75 of the world s best amateur pianists for one week of intense competition and camaraderie. Candid interviews offer a glimpse into the lives of the competitors, who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions. All have struggled to balance their music and their ordinary lives some overcoming extraordinary challenges and now, all hope to make years of dedication pay off in the performance of a lifetime.
Overflowing with the talent and enthusiasm of the competitors and with the sound of their spectacular music, THEY CAME TO PLAY reminds us all of the passion that burns within us.
DVD Features: Extended Performances
The film, by Alex Rotaru, chronicles the 2007 edition of the competition, which is held in Texas and open to those 35 and older who do not play professionally. (It has run on an irregular schedule since it started in 1999. The next one, in May, will be the sixth.) Some contestants have had advanced musical training; others have developed a natural talent mostly on their own. The proficiency they display at the keyboard is thrilling to see; whatever your own hobby is, you are likely to be awed by how much better these people are at theirs.
Mr. Rotaru paces the film perfectly, mixing performance footage with scenes of the competitors talking about their lives and the role music plays for them. And, just as admirably, he never tips his hand as the competition s elimination rounds progress. When the victor s name is called, you can feel the joy and surprise that must have gone through the concert hall and the winner. --THE NEW YORK TIMES - Chronicling the Cliburn Amateur Contest By NEIL GENZLINGER
A welcome twist on the now-ubiquitous kiddie competition doc, They Came to Play centers on the Van Cliburn Foundation's gathering of the world's best amateur pianists over the age of 35. "Amateur" is a word that makes most of the entrants bristle; it's also a semantic point of entry for director Alex Rotaru's gentle inquiry into the egalitarian nature of art and the compromises made for a life that involves regular meals. Rotaru chooses to focus on a handful of the 75 participants who are, yes, quirky, but also wildly talented and divergent in background. For some, like a French former Wimbledon competitor and two doctors, their musical talent is an extension of freakishly accomplished lives; for others, like the former coke addict and HIV-positive man mourning his lover, music is both escape and savior. The martial German physicist simply seeks perfection for perfection's sake. Rotaru has to regroup when several of his primary subjects are eliminated in the first round, but there is continuity in his focus on the emotions and eccentricities that infuse each player's performance with something beyond technique. The bittersweet refrain is that even such brilliant pianists could only make a hobby not a life of their gifts. --THE VILLAGE VOICE - Piano Lesson for the Middle-Aged Amateurs Among Us in They Came to Play By Michelle Orange
Top Customer Reviews
It is amazing to see just how outstanding these amateur pianists are and how they take on this competition. I also found it very hard to discern who I would have chosen as the winner, since so many of the competitors were so good.
I highly recommend this to piano lovers.
And the winner is....
I was unaware this competition was even taking place but am very happy to see such talented musicians from all over the world given the opportunity to compete and perform. The production and direction of this documentary is beautifully done and involves the viewer in the excitement and growing tension as the competitors prepare and play. What was interesting to me was the diversity of the backgrounds and experiences exhibited by the various competitors.
The story was focused on several different pianists who would eventually move on in the competition to the semi-finals and some to the final round. They were so different it was easy to find one you liked the best; there was something for everyone. It was exciting for us when the one we picked as our favorite won the competition.
They Came to Play is fun, entertaining, and captivating; it makes for a great evening's entertainment. I recommend it highly.
The camera angles add a lot: we see the faces of several of the best performers, very closely, as their emotions change second by second, with the changes in the pieces they play. I learned many new pieces. For many of the performers, we get a few minutes to know their stories, before their performances. People from all over the world, e.g. a former top tennis player in France, a retired physicist in Germany, you get to know some pivotal parts of their lives, enough to make you want to root for all of them in the competition. I'm still in awe that I can feel so much for people who get so little time on screen.
My wife and I bought 8 DVDs that night, given to friends in Holiday season, and I arranged for 2 showings in local venues as well.
If there is any chance in the world that you might be held in awe by exceptional piano pieces played wonderfully, by people whose love for the music is obvious, this must be the next DVD you see.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best documentary I have seen in recent years. If you love music, and people's passion in life, you are sure to love this movie!Published 1 month ago by M. Salan
Every pianist, professional or amateur will love this! After seeing this, I purchased it for gifts for a dear friend and piano instructor. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Dr. Mel
Whether you're a serious pianist or not, this film captures the essence of piano performance for its own sake -- and if possible, to delight the judges :) magical, even spiritual,... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Finn Bell
It reminded me that I am not alone in balancing a career with my desire to be a fine pianist!Published 10 months ago by Charla Mayne Grieves
This film chronicles the Fifth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs which is hosted by The Van Cliburn Foundation. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Joyce
One of the best documentaries I've seen, and wonderfully inspiring for amateur pianists over 35!Published 14 months ago by Betty Reynolds