STRAVINSKY - ONCE, AT A BORDER - A film by Tony Palmer
WILLIAM WALTON - AT THE HAUNTED END OF THE DAY - A film by Tony Palmer
DAVID OISTRAKH - Artist of the People? - A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
Here are two films by Tony Palmer, both of which have won awards for their excellence. The Stravinsky film was made at the request of the composer's estate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth June 17, 1882 and includes rare family photographs never publicly seen before, and comments by many famous musicians and artists as well as friends. Filmed in various countries, it also includes Stravinsky talking about his music and its writing, and it is indeed intriguing to watch him talk about writing The Rite of Spring speaking in the same room in which it was composed in 1913. Subtitles would have been helpful. Often when Stravinsky is speaking it is virtually impossible to understand what he is saying, particularly when overly-loud music is heard at the same time.
The Sir William Walton video is another treasure featuring the distinguished composer discussing his life and music.The film takes its name from the aria "At the haunted end of the day" from the opera Troilus and Cressida. We hear comments by many artists including Yehudi Menuhin and Julian Bream, Lady Susana Walton, Laurence Olivier and Sacheverell Sitwell, as well as many excerpts from his music. Walton was not a prolific composer although he did write 2 symphonies, a sinfonia concertante for piano and orchestra, concertos for violin, viola and cello, Belshazzar's Feast, several other choral works, chamber music and the operas Troilus and Cressida, and The Bear. Walton appears to be a genial, modest man of great humor (it's fascinating to hear his jovial account of the poorly-received Troilus premiere at Covent Garden in 1954). Walton was meticulous about every note he wrote. I had the privilege of meeting a friend and colleague of his, Sir Malcolm Arnold, in March 2001 when he was in Maryland for the U.S. premiere of his Symphony No. 9 (performed by the Susquehanna Symphony conducted by Sheldon Bair) .Arnold was a prolific composer, writing 9 symphonies, numerous concertos for various instruments, music for more than 80 films, countless works for solo performers and chamber ensembles. Arnold mentioned to me the many occasions he spent with Walton while the latter was composing, and how often he would suggest "getting on with it." However, there's no question Walton's style produced some of the true masterpieces of the 20th Century.
Bruno Monsaingeon's extraordinary film about David Oistrakh here makes its DVD debut. There are many excerpts from live performances that show Oistrakh—considered by many to be the finest violinist of the 20th Century—as the consummate artist and humanitarian. Interviews by Yehudi Menuhiun, Mstislav Rostropovich, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Igor Oistrakh and Gidon Kremer are included.
All three of these DVDs are of major importance.
R.E.B. (December 2008)