CONCERTO – A BEETHOVEN JOURNEY
Mon May 23 | 6:00pm | SIFF Cinema Uptown
Wed May 25 | 4:00pm | SIFF Cinema Uptown
Documentary. Recommended. Marion and I both appreciate a type of documentary we call, “a guy who is into his thing”. In this case the guy’s thing is the 5 piano concertos of Beethoven. The guy is Leif Ove Andsnes, who is apparently a big deal classical pianist. So, he is sitting at the piano describing what Beethoven was doing at a certain passage, and mind you he has probably played this and similar music for well over the requisite 10,000 hours, and he finishes playing and holds up his arm to show the gooseflesh he gets, presumably every time. Way into his thing. The movie consists largely of close-ups of musicians playing, with voice over narration by our guy of what is happening with the music. I do not properly appreciate classical music, but I love this sort of thing. Some passages do make me cry, not because I really get what the music is doing, but because, my best guess, is that the music bypasses my cortex entirely, I have a neurological response, not a cognitive one.
We get a twofer here, because in addition to Leif, the movie is equally about a second guy who was into his thing, Ludwig. Beethoven wrote the first concerto when he was first making his reputation in Viennese music circles. He was a virtuoso pianist, and a lot of his compositions started out as improvisations, which musicians of the day did a lot. The fifth concerto was not at the end of his career by a long way, but when he finished it, his hearing was bad enough that he could not actually play it. It was the only piano concerto he did not play himself when it debuted, and he never wrote another piano concerto. And in between the first and the fifth we are given to understand the context in which the music was composed; both in the wider culture and to Beethoven himself. Great stuff. Best trivia of the movie, they went in the order Beethoven wrote them, so they started with Piano Concerto 2, which he wrote before #1.