A Paderewski showcase... filmed variety!
Anthony J. Lomenzo | Fort Ann, New York | 04/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for Paderewski in film, look no further! Sidebar: It was said that Paderewski became so used to hearing in his piano recital appearances in America the often "mispronounced" Pad-e-ROO'-ski for the correct Pad-e-REF'-ski that he just smiled while never correcting the mispronunciation and reportedly once commented "Well, it could have been much worse were my surname the very often mangled surname of "Chopin" ."
Believe it or not, and the Pad-e-"ROO"-ski mispronunciation aside, I've heard everything for "Chopin" from [phonetically] "Choppin" as in the 'chopping' wood variety to "Cho-PANE or PIN" But then I get, "Why do you Americans spell 'Rachmaninov' [sic -- UK, et al] as 'Rachmaninoff' ? Easy! That's the precise way the man himself wrote [cursive or printed form] and in fact signed his name when he lived in the USA, viz., "Rachmaninoff" and so "his" wishes for the transliterated Russian into English surname spelling of his own surname were and are followed.
Anyway, while the plot of the movie is rather off-beat and can bring on shades of Victor Borge and Fozzie-Bear doing the "Moonlight Sonata" routine with the "Bust of Beethoven" thing Zzzzzzz-wise and the viewer could easily anticipate the plot if not the entire script itself as it goes along, it doesn't detract from the playing including the beginning of the movie where an uninterrupted 21 minute recital by Paderewski shows him at his best.
Humor too as when Paderewski visits the orphanage for girls as a guest of the Baroness [Marie Tempest] and of course he is not known there so that the musical program arranged for the visit of the Baroness shows the orphanage director's wife, Margaret, having a bad case of the jitters at the piano and literally running away in tears before playing a note. The orphanage director then makes the anticipated plea complete with the hanky to the head thing, "Margaret! Margaret, dear! Ohhh, I'm soooo sorry ... perhaps somebody here can play the piano?" whereupon Paderewski speaks up and says, "If it is not too difficult, perhaps I might .." whereupon he steps to the piano and sees the score [with the appropriate camera zoom], "Minuet in G", which of course is his own piece [and not to be confused with other pieces by that same title] and duly bears his name on the score as the composer and he says with a twinkle in his eye, "I think I can just about manage that."
Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" acts as a sort of regeneration tonic to the movie heroine as she tries to figure out her true love sort of thing but, as I say, Paderewski is well represented as well as his well known personal charm. Naturally, the audio and film visuals are 1937 vintage so allowances must be made for the quality of same. Paderewski was well in his 70's when he appeared in this UK made production but at least there is a filmed record of his playing and well captivating personality. BTW, that clip of Paderewski playing Liszt [2nd Hungarian Rhapsody] that appears in the 1999 produced DVD, "The Art of Piano", is taken directly from the 1937 "Moonlight Sonata" movie.