Totally unique, outstanding musical experience!
S. A. Felton | southern OR USA | 06/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this incredible dvd several times in recent months, including one of the
extras, which is a great radio interview of the filmmaker and the principal first and
second violinists of the Philadelphia Orchestra. 5 stars isn't a high enough rating - this
is more than a must see for (classical) music lovers.
In my experience this is a totally unique production. Interesting, entertaining, intimate,
thought-provoking interviews of professional orchestral musicians are the main focus,
interweaved with many scenes of the musicians in live performances, in rehearsals as an orchestra
or in smaller groups, as well as in other venues, playing chamber music and also non-classical
music - I'll pass on the bluegrass, but the scene with the trombonist playing Latin music was
great! These fine musicians discuss their craft and music itself from many points of view. The
interviews are done sometimes with only one musician, other times in groups. And of course
either in the background, or in the foreground, we are always hearing great classical music.
I felt like on some level I was really getting to know some of the musicians, through the
magic of music, and because of the depth, directness, and honesty of their comments. There
are so many inspiring, insightful comments, so much music packed in to this 90-minute
production, along with interesting travel footage of the orchestra in Europe and Asia.
A few of the comments/scenes I noted:
a) "You can't define great musicianship, but you know when you hear it."
b) We might think that musicians are competitive (and they are sometimes!), and yet on
the dvd we hear otherwise. One violinist comments on how blown away he was when he heard
Sarah Chang play a Paganini concerto when she was nine. He and another musician express not
envy but are rather deeply inspired by her phenomenal talent.
c) The amazing story of the concertmaster, David Kim, who didn't quite make it as a
soloist, but still feels he has fulfilled the expectations of his deceased Mother. The music for
this entire scene is Schubert's Cello Quintet, which Kim calls "pure ecstasy," and we feel
the same feeling in our own way, through the beauty of the music and the playing (he with
other members of the orchestra).
d) One of the percussionists makes a statement near the end of the dvd that music
expreses something Divine.
e) Another musician, who is also an artist, comments about the timelessness of
the music, that playing (and listening) is like time-traveling, and she feels like she
knows the composers in some way.
Words can't really convey the depth of the experience of watching this dvd, but I
don't think a person can appreciate it unless they like classical music. One other excellent
production feature is the very visually-appealing, spatial arrangements of the musicians
during rehearsals, so much more interesting than the normal look of an orchestra on stage.
This is better than a 5-star production, but I would have appreciated it if the
title of the pieces were displayed so I would know exactly what I was hearing (though
some of the pieces are recognizable). The names of the pieces are listed at the end
of the main feature, but I think they omitted several, like the Debussey piece that
was so well presented, along with an insightful explanation about connecting sounds and
As mentioned at the beginning of the review, one of the extras, the radio interview of
the filmmaker with 2 of the principals, gives more insight and enjoyment into the music,
the music process, and other things you will see for yourself when you watch it."
What Is Music?
Agogo | St. Louis, MO USA | 02/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary attempts to answer the question "What is music?", through the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Sometimes the musicians discuss this as a group, or some give individual reflections on the question. There are many varied responses, and there is no absolute answer. It really demonstrates the common bond that music has in it's most basic sense, as some of the musicians demonstrate their affinity for all kinds of music.
Whether you enjoy classical music or not, if you DO enjoy music, this movie is sure to please, and sure to make you smile. Definitely a movie that can be watched over and over."
When we play we are IN the art
V. Pierce | Michigan | 07/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I come away from this film realizing to what extent the musician is in the work of art that is being created on the spot, with each performance. Music is a miracle, and live performance of great music really is sublime. And it's all done by people who, like me, enjoy being an audience. Watching these musicians enjoy the superb performance of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" by the accordionist is a high point in this for me. Seeing the DePue brothers play bluegrass, watching the trombonist play with the salsa band, enjoying the violinist with the children at their school, made viewing this film special and important. The segment on the role of the conductor was enlightening. I am grateful to have this."
Not so wowed.
George Gorham | New York, NY USA | 05/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I wasn't that thrilled with this. Although I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of life in a first-class professional orchestra, I didn't get nearly enough of that, and I was not so much interested in the musicians' lives away from the orchestra. By example, a good chunk of time was spent with a horn player talking, not about horn, but about long distance running. Not about how it relates to music making, but just about running. ??
I also think the film needs some organization to the material--even if it were somewhat arbitrary, i.e., following the orchestra for a season, or on a particular tour, or preparing a particular work. The film just begins and ends, with no real new understanding of this life. It seems completely lacking a point of view.
There is the discussion toward the end of the film on "What is music?", which - had we started with that - might have been the organizing principal here, the string that held the beads together. As it is, that discussion is distinctly banal, with answers ranging from "organized sound" on one end, to "the divine" at the other, pretty much undergraduate stuff.
Lastly, I think it's very telling that the most exciting piece of music in the film is NOT the Philadelphia Orchestra - but a street musician playing Vivaldi (amazingly) on an accordion."