The Art of the Piano is a feature-length, 106-minute documentary that presents in refreshingly straightforward fashion a portrait of 20th-century piano playing. The format is simple: short segments on virtually all of the ... more »great pianists who have ever been captured on film, augmented by extracts from interviews, sometimes with the pianists themselves, or with later conductors and musicians of international stature, including specially filmed contributions from Daniel Barenboim, Sir Colin Davis, Evgeny Kissin, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, and Tamás Vásáry. The narration by John Tusa offers an overview of piano music through the century, though the heart of the film is the great quantity of rare archive historic footage, with extracts from performances by Gould, Horowitz, Paderwski, Rachmaninoff, Richter, Rubinstein, and many others. The interviews are short, but offer considerable insight, while the film of so many revered pianists brought together is a literal eye-opener, especially for those who have previously only known these masters from LP and CD. This is, like the companion program The Art of Singing, as close to definitive as a single film can get, even going so far as to include footage from the "silent" era with sound from corresponding recordings. --Gary S. Dalkin, Amazon.co.uk« less
Derek C. Oppen | Charlottesville, Va United States | 05/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Indispensable of course because there is so little footage available of the great pianists. But the producer/editor seems to think that we like seeing performances of pieces faded out after a few bars, so he has plenty of film time for spoken thoughts from others. Unfortunately, since the commentaries are mostly a monumental waste of time (in the genre "He played incredibly well..." "He was a great virtuoso" - I mean "Duh"), the failure to allow the pianists to play to the end of the pieces is inexcusable and infuriating. Good news is that Decca has just released a DVD also of the great pianists; I don't have it but I'm hoping they didn't wreck it with vacuous verbiage."
It's Even Better on DVD
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 02/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having owned the videotape of this program I was pleased to get the new DVD version. It has additions to the tape. For one thing, although conducted primarily in English, there are English subtitles for those bits that are conducted in languages other than English. And there are also Japanese, Spanish and French subtitles for those who wish them. Some of the film footage is simply magnificent and extremely rare. For instance, one sees the elderly Francis Plante playing brilliantly; born in 1839, he had actually heard Chopin play! There is some tendency to cut away from music footage in order to continue the voice-over narration, and that is understandable, but it is also occasionally frustrating. Some have complained that there are only two female pianists represented - a long and impressive bit with Dame Myra Hess, and an uncredited bit underneath the credits with Annie Fischer - but then there are plenty of other male pianists who could have been included, too. The makers of the film only had two hours with which to work, so one can understand the omissions. There is a minimum of fawning, a fair amount of substantive information - both plusses. For those of us who are fascinated by both piano technique and ever-changing pianistic styles this DVD is indispensable. It was wonderful to see lengthy bits featuring, among others, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Josef Hofmann, Claudio Arrau, Emil Gilels, Sviatoslav Richter, Arturo Benedetto Michelangeli, György Cziffra, Alfred Cortot, Arthur Rubinstein and to have interviews with current musicians like Sir Colin Davis, Stephen Kovacevich, Daniel Barenboim, Piotr Anderszewski, Tamás Vasáry, and Gary Graffman.Recommended.Scott Morrison"
Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. | Eugene, Oregon United States | 10/29/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Art of Piano" is a brilliant, fascinating look at over one hundred years (from Plante to Richter) of pianism, with rare footage of some of history's greatest pianists performing live or discussing their art. For me, the most compelling footage was that of Cortot, Backhaus and Arrau, but nearly every second of this film is filled with compelling performances. Each pianist featured in "The Art of Piano" is a great artist, with a unique style and interpretation of music, but there is one drawback for me: this film is incomplete. Where are Schnabel, Gieseking, Serkin, Kempff, Katchen, Lhevinne, Cliburn and countless other great 20th century pianists? This film a treasure for all music lovers, but it is too exclusive for me to give it five stars. Hopefully there will be sequel that covers all those left out in part one."
Good...should have been more ambitious
John Grabowski | USA | 02/03/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to fault a documentary that shows rarely-seen footage of the likes of Gilels, Arrau, Richter and Rubenstein, not to mention Paderewski, Fischer and Cziffra. But this video falls short of what it could have been, or should have been. The high-brow-sounding British announcer is grating, and just adds fuel to the mythical fire that classical is pompous music for old stuffed shirts. (Also, I have to wonder if the European version of this video features an American narrator with an uppercrust Boston accent. :-) But more important, the video is too short, and spends far too little time on each artist. We get a brief excerpt or two of them playing, often with a fade-down after a few bars followed by the grating narrator or an interviewee telling us what we are supposed to be hearing, but can't because they faded down to tell us. I get the feeling a lot of the film excerpts were used because they were the first they found, because they're not representative. Only the Horowitz and Gould segments reveal how this documentary could have been more insightful. Also, Schnabel is completely omitted! Not a word is said about him--incredible. Arrau gets about five minutes, with Daniel Barenboim telling us he was "a complex personality" but nothing more explaining the statement, followed by Arrau himself talking about body posture that out of context makes no sense, followed by a performance of the Brahms 2nd Concerto, hardly an Arrau specialty and not representative of his sound. At least the next clip, of his Beethoven Op. 111, makes up for it.Nothing about Horowitz's fears and phobias, which are part of his whole playing persona. Nothing about Paderewski's vulgar flashiness that sent many listeners swooning, nor his embellishments and departures from the printed text. There should have been a lot more scholarship on this project, and either fewer pianists dealt with more carefully or a second tape.Worth checking out, but not essential, as, say, "Richter The Enigma" is."
What amazing footage!!! Priceless
Augustus Caesar, Ph.D. | 01/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great DVD with some of the most amazing footage I have ever seen. First, there is video of Josef Hofmann playing Rachmaninoff's prelude op.3 no.2 in it's entirety. Then there's the stunning Cziffra playing Liszt's Grand Gallope Chromatique faster than I thought possible. Also Richter plays Chopin's etude Op10 No12 in like 1 minute 50 seconds. No complaints about any of the content in this documentary. My only complaint is that EVERY piece of footage is completely wrecked(on the DVD, at least) by the fact that the video and audio are almost 1 second out of sync. Most people wouldn't notice. But it is very noticable to a pianist and it is annoying, almost to the point where I feel like going out and buying the VHS edition.Other than that, a marvelous video.
Also If you are a big classical music fan, pick up the ART of VIOLIN. Another amazing video."