MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN "
GLENN GOULD "Hereafter" - A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
"CARMEN" - Cecile B. DeMille film with Geraldine
Farrar (Carmen); Wallace Reid (Don José); Pedro de Cordoba (Escamillo);
Horace B. Carpenter (Pastia);
William Elmer (Morales); Jeanie Macpherson and Anita King (gypsy girls);
Milton Brown (Garcia)
FEODOR CHALIAPIN - Adventures of Don Quixote (English and French
Versions of 1933 film directed by G. W. Pabst)
I am a great admirer of Marc-André Hamelin and looked forward to this DVD filmed in 2005 in Canada, the U.S., Scotland and England. Unfortunately, overall it disappoints. It's unfortunate producers didn't have an interview (or two) and then Hamelin's remarkable performances, each individually tracked. Instead there are three parts to this DVD. The first is called a documentary, and it begins and ends with short pieces by Rzewski, a composer Hamelin has championed, and in between there are other short works by varied composers. Part II supposedly is a "recital" recorded in Charlevoix, Quebec, and Part III, called "extra features," has several interviews and ends with a dazzling performance of the fourth movement of Busoni's Piano Concerto in a live performance with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä. However, all of these musical excerpts are interrupted by boring commentary and superfluous visuals. There are five chapters to each of the first two parts, but they are arbitrary. If you want to find a particular selection (the booklet contains a list with starting times for each), you'll have to do a lot of searching and fast-forwarding. Frustrating indeed! Hamelin deserves better treatment from producers.
Admirers of Glenn Gould surely will wish to investigate this film by Bruno Monsaingeon. Monsaingeon is perhaps Gould's most avid admirer—he has made seven previous films and written four books about the excentric pianist. (I remember a performance of Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 many years ago with Peter Herman Adler and the Baltimore Symphony—after playing the solo opening bars, Gould swung around to face the audience, crossed his legs, put his chin on his arm and stared at the audience until seconds before the piano re-entry!). This documentary contains fascinating previously unseen videos of performances and concerts, many of them informal, often repertory usually not associated with Gould. The problem is that although there are 26 cuing tracks, there is no booklet listing of what they contain, a serious oversight if you are searching for a particular performance (there are almost 40 of them). If you are fascinated by this remarkable artist you surely will wish to investigate this DVD in spite of its production inadequacies.
Thanks to VAI we have the opportunity to view Cecil B. DeMille's 1915 film of Carmen, not Bizet's opera, but Prosper Mérimée's original story, featuring one of the most famous sopranos of the time, Geraldine Farrar, in the title role. It does seem odd that a singer would be appearing in a silent film, but DeMille was so attracted by Farrar's histrionic ability that he asked her to make the film. Source for this film is DeMille's personal copy of the nitrate print from the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York. Tinting is according to original directions. The premiere was in Boston's Symphony Hall Oct. 1, 1915, with the New York premiere in the Strand Theater a month later. Farrar was present at both, accepting the audiences's applause, although some reviewers were rather cool, feeling Ferrar's acting was too realistic, particularly the fight scene in the cigarette factory. It was the custom at the time to have live orchestral accompaniment for showings of the movie. Hugo Riesenfeld's arrangements of music from Bizet's opera have been resurrected and are heard on this new DVD. Musicologist/conductor Gillian Anderson, who also wrote the fascinating and profuse program notes, directs the London Philharmonic, and there are three singers of varying quality: Susan Bickley, Peter Brondon and Peter Sidhorn heard in various arias as the film is viewed—although these are not always related to screen action. A bonus offers Farrar's 1914/15 recordings of excerpts from Carmen with Giovanni Martinelli, and we also have many photos. A fascinating release!
Of equal interest is VAI's issue of Adventures of Don Quixote, a 1933 film directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst, starring the great bass/baritone Fedor Chaliapin. Chaliapin was at the height of his career and is magnificent as the deluded Knight, both visually and vocally. Jacques Ibert wrote four songs for the film (which Chaliapin recorded for HMV at the same time, with the composer conducting), and Alexander Dargomyzhsky wrote one, and it is a pleasure to experience these in the film. Don Quixote is presented in English and French (the French version is about five minutes longer than the English) with only three actors appearing in both: Chaliapin, Donnio as Carrasco, and Renée Valliers as Dulcinea. DVD notes mention that the film also was made in German, but this has been lost. This is a magnificent issue, an opportunity to see and hear one of the greatest singers of the 20th century. Hats off to VAI!
R.E.B. (February 2007)