J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One of the hallmarks of Arvo Pärt's music is that it tends to bloom over time and it requires a fair amount of close attention on the part of the listener. There are those, I suppose, who may simply sit back and let the music wash over them without making much effort to attend closely to what is happening in the music, but those who listen attentively are rewarded for their effort. This DVD, containing one main and three subsidiary documentaries shot over many months in cinema verité style by filmmaker Dorian Supin, requires rather the opposite approach due to its mosaic style. The main documentary, '24 Preludes for a Fugue,' is made up of 24 short snippets of film running a total of about 90 minutes. It juxtaposes interviews with Pärt with reminiscences of his earlier life, scenes of him composing or rehearsing his music, of premieres and seminars, and so on. The rhythm of the collage is a little distracting as we jump from one thing to another, but the calmness and slowness of Pärt's way of talking tends to counterbalance that. Still, it is hard to say that the whole adds up to a rounded portrait of the man and his music. And for those who want to hear much of his music the film could be a disappointment; we rarely get more than short moments of music at a time. Still, for those who are interested in Pärt the man, the film would be useful. There are three 'extras' that are simply shorter collections of the footage Supin had shot during his several years with Pärt. They are 'Cecilia,' a short film about the composition of 'Cecilia, vergine romana,' 'Your Name,' which presents shots of rehearsals and performance of his 'Which Was the Son of ...,' and 'Como Cierva Sedienta,' with soprano Patricia Rozario singing a recital of Pärt's music in Tallinn, Estonia.
I found myself distracted and my interest waning at times by the presentation, but I am probably not the most avid fan of Mr Pärt's music and that surely accounts for some of my reaction. His many fervent admirers will undoubtedly find the film more rewarding than I. And one must admit that the film is expertly made. The main documentary won a UNESCO prize for documentaries in 2002.
The photography is quite good, better than that in most cinema verité films. Sound in Dolby Digital 5.1 is fine. The excellent subtitles are in a vast array of languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Finnish, Russian and Estonian) and are necessary because the spoken sound track includes sections in Estonian, Russian, German and English.
Scott Morrison "
Parts, not the Whole...
odd-bird | Oklahoma City, USA | 11/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...but really a rich & magnificent treatment of this man & his music. Although previous acquaintance with the Hillier biography and Part's music would be advantageous, still the film stands alone as marvellous documentary."
Not for the novice
L. Benjamin | Savannah, GA | 01/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is a collection of reminiscences, observations, and practice sessions with the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. For those familiar with him and his work, it is a delightful opportunity to literally spend time with him, as if one had the privilege of remaining in his presence, in the background while he spoke and worked. Otherwise, for those with less background, the film offers fewer clues than a typical CD's liner notes. We learn, for instance, what any Pärt aficionado already would know, that "Für Alina" was the first example of the "tintinnabuli" style, without any explanation of what "tintinnabuli" is. In other scenes, Pärt relates how his family used to eat tomatoes with sugar, rather than salt, and how he owned one of only two motorbikes in Rakvere. In an amusing scene, titled "A Sad Day," he recalls how he used to practice piano as a child. Since his mother didn't know what he was supposed to be playing, he practiced his own compositions. One day, his mother met the piano teacher on the street, and was told that Arvo wasn't doing very well, apparently because he wasn't practicing. His mother replied that this was impossible, as he was at the piano all day. In this way, Pärt relates, his lie was exposed.
A short montage of still photos of the composer, from childhood to the present, is accompanied with dates of important events in his life. Aside from this, the biographical data presented is minimal. There's also scant information on the phases of Pärt's musical development. One scene has him describing his creative lull in the 1970s, when he listened to (and sang) a great deal of Gregorian Chant, apparently without success. The scene that surely followed, describing his ensuing breakthrough, discovery of the tintinnabuli style, and the creative flow that continues to the present day, must have been inexplicably excised by the filmmaker. There is also no discussion of Pärt's religious beliefs, a curious omission, since so much of his work has been suffused with the spirit of Orthodox Christianity.
As an introduction to Pärt, this film would hopefully spur the novice to further inquiry into the work of this remarkable composer."
One of the lesser installments in the Juxtapositions series
Christopher Culver | 10/24/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The Juxtaposition DVDs collect documentaries on modern composers. Installments of the series have taught fans much about the work of Pierre Boulez, Gyorgy Kurtag, Elliott Carter, Peter Eotvos, and Arnold Schoenberg among others. Here, we get a full disc dedicated to Arvo Part, the Estonian composer whose turn from the avant-garde to a sort of "holy minimalism" has won him many fans. Unfortunately, I find this one of the least informative installments.
The main feature is Dorian Supin's "24 Preludes for a Fugue". It consists of a series of scenes in no particular order where Part talks about himself. While eventually it shows him in the act of composing or leading performers, the beginning is excruciating slow and unrelated to his music. His reminisces about the house he grew up in, or mean nothing to those who want to better understand his aesthetic and technique.
The lack of a chronological structure is fatal to the documentary. The fascinating trajectory of Part's career, from enfant terrible of the Estonian music scene during the Soviet occupation to minimalist, Orthodox Christian, and hallmark of the ECM label is nowhere charted out. We just get random footage thrown together.
Finally, Part is a somewhat reclusive figure who doesn't like to say much about his music. His comments on the origins of tintinnabuli are vague, and he directs them more to the people he is standing next to than to the eventually viewer of the film. Bringing in commentators who can explain what makes his music tick--for example, the basis of his music in Orthodox Christianity which is unfamiliar to many, would have been better. Since Supin didn't do that, the documentary will neither inform his fans very much nor show the unconverted why he is a major figure in contemporary music.
There are three extras, which are at least all related to the music. The first has Part guiding Myung-Whun Chung during rehearsals of "Cecilia, virgine romana". This is interesting enough, but it sheds more light on the challengers conductors face than on Part's music. The second film shows a youth choir rehearsing and then premiering Part's a capella work "...which was the son of...". I find Part's a capella works to be among his least appealing, so I didn't enjoy this much. Finally, there is a full-length performance of the solo soprano version of "Como cierva sedienta" where Tonu Kaluste leads the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra with Patricia Rozario as soloist. I found this an merely average work in its version for orchestra and choir (on the Orient & Occident disc), and the version for soprano solo is simply disappointing.
I recommend collecting the Juxtapositions series, even in its less appealing installments, to show that there is a market for documentaries on contemporary music. However, leave this for after you've already acquired the rest."
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
R. Cofreces | Paris, France | 11/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What an incredible composer!! This video shows Pärt in his daily life, working at home, walking the streets...A great way to see how the biggest creative minds are also...simple human beings."