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Yevgeny Mravinsky: Soviet Conductor, Russian Aristocrat
Yevgeny Mravinsky Soviet Conductor Russian Aristocrat
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2005     2hr 10min


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Movie Details

Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: EMI Classics
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 02/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 10min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

"To go without music is to forgo happiness"
Marc Haegeman | Gent, Belgium | 12/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This title tops for my money the new batch of EMI Classic Archive releases. Commercially available and good quality footage of the legendary Russian conductor Evgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988) is still something of a rarity, but here we get as part of an extensive biographic survey produced by the BBC (2003) loads of first-rate material - fragments from rehearsals, concerts, and even home-made video's. Interviews with the conductor's widow, members of the Leningrad Philharmonic and fellow-conductors who worked with him (mainly Kurt Sanderling and Mariss Jansons) shed new light on the career and personality of this unique musician, caught between the memories of his life in pre-Revolutionary Russia and his artistic pre-eminence within a Soviet society which he resented. His association with Dmitry Shostakovich in the 1930s and 1940s, of whom he premiered several symphonies in spite of the composer's repeated problems with the Stalinist government, was in this respect characteristic.

The documentary is followed by two concert performances of Mravinsky with the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in Weber's "Oberon" and Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini", one of the conductor's signature works, respectively dating from 1978 and 1983. The sound quality leaves a lot to be desired, but to see Mravinsky in action at such length is in itself an exhilarating experience, especially because the largely static camera almost exclusively focuses on him.

If you can find it on the DVD there is also an extensive bonus in the form of a 1971 BBC-Proms concert of Tchaikovsky's 4th by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (and recently released on CD as part of the BBC Legends series). A solid performance, well recorded (courtesy of Brian Large) but one that leaves you with as much regret that it wasn't Mravinsky instead of Rozhdestvensky who was filmed.

(Finally, Amazon erroneously gave this item the subtitle Russian arias, while in fact there are none on this disc.)
Summit between man and art
fCh | GMT-5, USA | 04/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Mravinsky must have been of a model whom entire generations in the Soviet Bloc aspired to emulate: aristocratic by ancestry and behavior, distant and exacting, meticulous to a fault, and impermeable to the official propaganda. Why else would so many people, who were subjected to his high demands, speak so highly about the late Russian maestro?

Unlike earlier EMI Classic Archive releases, this DVD is more a biographical sketch than a musical encounter with Mravinsky. On one hand, this is a refreshing approach, especially given the quality of execution, but on the other, one is left wanting more instances of Mravinsky, the conductor. The quality of the film-shooting in the scenes when he conducts is just average--for a while his top 1/3 of the head is cropped, maybe to allow his hands to stay visible, grainy film etc. The sounds ranges from good to average.

As far as how Mravinsky himself comes across, the title says it all: Soviet conductor, Russian aristocrat. In his case, the better part of a century of trials seems to have carved him into a singular profile, seldom smiling or self-satisfied, ever struggling to match reality (of his work) with some type of ideal (in his artistic representations.)

Rating this DVD is far from easy. Considering the scarcity of footage with Mravinsky performing, this is a 5-star/must have for Mravinsky fans. Otherwise, it would be a 4-star release."
A Portrait of a Great Artist
BLee | HK | 10/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

We are first of all given something about his background, the Russian Revolution. Mravinsky was Dr Zhivako in real life. In his early teens, during the revolution, people "invaded" his aristocratic home and they instead were reallocated to one of the rooms. Later on, they were evicted because they couldn't afford to pay the "rent" and his father couldn't stand this and died the following year...

Mravinsky certainly reminds us of Furtwangler, and the way Mravinsky conducted in his later years also reminds me of Knappertsbusch, the great Wagner interpreter, but the latter had a distaste for rehearsals and Furtwangler occasionally took chances. As a musician, he instead resembled Michelangeli most: both of them cared more about the music than the audience, and both were die hard perfectionists. Both were so concerned about their highest level of performance that they would cancell their concerts often for the reason that they might not be able to do better than their rehearsal. Mravinsky would often grew restless and his "legs shook" before a concert and that is at a time when he was regarded almost like a god, so his co-conductor told us.

To breathe life into music, Mravinsky didn't like a performance to become memory work. And having presided upon the orchestra for half a century plus endless rehearsals, the mutual understanding between the members and the conductor was such that the every gestures of the conductor was fully understood and accordingly expressed.

He was a great sympathizer of Shostokovich. Like Yudina, both were believers and both dared to perform the work of this very composer whom Stalin denounced. His Shostokovich is not just "authentic", he understood the meaning of every note the composer wrote inside out, somewhat like Horowitz "devouring" Rachmaniov's concerto in full. Hearing him conduct, Shostokovich becomes so meaningful both the individual notes as well as the whole picture. There is so much pathos, as sometimes given vent in the prominent role of the rather outstanding solo clarinet that is so sad... Of course, we are also told of this great musician's source of inspirations: water, wind, leaves, forests etc. very much the same things for the great violinist Heifetz.

This is a great portrait of one of the greatest conductors of the century despite most of the time, we are only given short clips with the longest being an overture and da Rimini, with the latter two totalling about half an hour. Quite true, the sound and picture of these clips are of average only, but they are very illustrative and they have captured the spirit of this master exceedingly well.