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THE PIANO 1993
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Holly Hunter (Ada), Harvey Keitel (Barnes), Sam Neill (Stewart), Anna Paquin (Flora), Kerry Walker (Aunt Morag), Geneviève Lemon (Nessie), Tungia Baker (Hira)
It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada McGrath, mute from an early age, is sent with her daughter Flora from Scotland by her father to New Zealand to marry a land-owner, Alisdair Stewart. Her most valued possession is a piano, which Stewart, oblivious to her expressive playing and not understanding how important it is to her, exchanges for a piece of land from his neighbour George Baines. Baines tells Ada she can have it back in return for teaching him how to play, but it quickly transpires that piano lessons are not in fact what he has in mind. For the sake of being allowed to play, she complies with his wishes, and with each visit they grow more intimate until at length Stewart learns from Flora what is going on. He is enraged, especially as Ada has so far denied him the marital affection he craves, and in an awful act of vengeance and frustration he takes an axe to one of her fingers.
Michael Nyman wrote the score for The Piano and it became one of the best-selling soundtracks ever. The Piano Concerto is based on material from the film and heard on this CD is an excerpt from it.
Director: Milos Forman
Cast: F. Murray Abraham (Salieri), Tom Hulce (Mozart), Elizabeth Berridge (Konstanze Mozart), Simon Callow (Emanuel Schikaneder), Roy Dotrice (Leopold Mozart), Jeffrey Jones (Emperor Joseph II)
Biographies of famous composers are nothing new to the film industry. After all there have been Cornel Wilde as Chopin (A Song to Remember, 1944), Paul Henreid as Schumann(Song of Love, 1960), Dirk Bogarde as Liszt (Song Without End), Toralv Maurstad as Grieg (Song of Norway) and many, many others.
It is safe to say, however, that no film has done more for the music of its composer than Amadeus. It may have been an unconventional portrait, historically wildly inaccurate no doubt, but one does well to remember that everything is seen through the eyes of Salieri, who could hardly be said to have been impartial.
There was a wide variety of lovely music by Mozart in this film, but by far the greatest impression seems to have been made by his Requiem, especially on young people.
UN CUR EN HIVER 1992
Director: Claude Sautet
Cast: Daniel Auteuil (Stéphane), André Dussollier (Maxime), Emanuelle Béart (Camille)
Maxime and Stéphane are partners in the very exacting craft of repairing violins, and they have many famous customers. As people they are totally different. Maxime is easy-going, competitive and extrovert, Stéphane is locked into himself. He is kind and pleasant, because he doesnt really care. Camille, a violinist and also Maximes girl-friend, falls in love with Stéphane, but he repulses her. He cannot seize the opportunity, and he only comprehends his loss when it is too late. His really is a "winter heart".
A large part of the film is about a recording of Ravel chamber music that Camille is making. When Stéphane first visits the recording studio, she is playing the slow movement from Ravels Violin Sonata, and on another occasion she is heard rehearsing the first movement of his Piano Trio.
FARINELLI IL CASTRATO 1994
Director: Gérard Corbiau
Cast: Stefano Dionisi (Carlo Broschi/Farinelli), Enrico Lo Verso (Riccardo Broschi), Elsa Zylberstein (Alexandra), Caroline Cellier (Margareth Hunter), Marianne Basler (Countess Mauer), Jacques Boudet (Philippe V), Jeroen Krabbe (Handel)
Belgian film about the great eighteenth century opera singer Farinelli. Castrated in boyhood to preserve his rich, pure soprano voice a not unusual practice at that time and managed by his brother Riccardo, whose mediocre compositions he is doomed to perform as little more than a novelty act until he comes to the attention of the composer George Frideric Handel. Soon he is the most famous castrato in Europe, enjoying the status and rewards of a modern pop singer. Surprisingly perhaps, he also enjoys an energetic sex-life, sharing his female conquests with Riccardo.
The film was nominated for the 1995 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Golden Globe in the same category.
As well as music by the real Riccardo Broschi, the film features works by Hasse, Pergolesi, Porpora and of course Handel. In order to reproduce the extraordinary range of an eighteenth-century castrato, the film cleverly combines the voices of a female soprano and male tenor. On our CD, Handels aria Lascia ch io pianga is sung by a female soprano only.
HILARY AND JACKIE 1998
Director: Anand Tucker
Cast: Emily Watson (Jacqueline Jackie du Pré), Rachel Griffiths (Hilary du Pré), James Frain (Daniel Danny Barenboim), David Morrissey (Kiffer Finzi)
The two sisters Hilary and Jacqueline du Pré, at the insistence of their mother, undertake musical tuition. Jacqueline obviously has much talent as a cellist, and, eclipsing her sister, gives a highly successful concert début. In the meantime, Hilary meets Kiffer Finzi with whom she falls in love and marries while Jackie marries pianist Daniel Barenboim. Later, however, and with Hilarys encouragement, Jackie sleeps with Finzi. It then becomes apparent that Jackie is ill with multiple sclerosis and this affects her ability to play the cello until she becomes confined to a wheelchair. At the end of the film, Hilary hears the announcement on the radio of Jackies death at the age of 42.
Jacqueline du Pré was best known for her performances of the Elgar Cello Concerto and it is natural that music from this work should figure prominently in the film, particularly towards the end when her illness hampers her playing. There is much other classical music, however, including excerpts from concertos by Dvorÿák, Haydn, Monn and sonatas by Brahms, Franck and Handel.
Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix
Cast: Frederic Andrei (Jules), Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez (Cynthia Hawkins), Richard Bohringer (Gorodish), Thuy An Luu (Alba), Jacques Fabbri (Saporta), Chantal Deruaz (Nadia)
Two plots, two tapes and the young mailman Jules, who gets caught in between. One tape is an illicit recording he himself makes of the great opera singer Cynthia Hawkins (the "Diva" of the title), whom he adores. The other tape contains damaging evidence against certain criminals and is hidden in his mailbag by one of their victims the minute before she is knifed to death.
This is the start of this exciting thriller, which became a cult film and also made something of a classical hit of the lovely aria from Catalanis opera La Wally.
Directed by Scott Hicks
Cast: Geoffrey Rush (David Helfgott, adult), Armin Müller-Stahl (Peter Helfgott), Noah Taylor (David Helfgott, adolescent), Lynn Redgrave (Gillian), Googie Withers (Katharine Susannah Prichard), Sonia Todd (Sylvia), Nicholas Bell (Ben Rosen), John Gielgud (Professor Cecil Parkes)
This Australian/British biopic traces the life of concert pianist David Helfgott from his childhood under the tutelage of his dominant father (himself survivor of the holocaust), to his nervous breakdown and rehabilitation. After the brief opening scene (set in the 1980s) we are transported back to Davids boyhood to find him participating in school talent competition. To the amazement of the judges, he performs the Chopin A flat Polonaise (heard here) albeit on an inadequate piano which rolls further and further away from the boy as the music progresses. His father is adamant that David learn the Rachmaninov Third Piano Concerto, but his teacher Ben Rosen thinks the boy is not old enough for such a momentous piece. Several years later, however, after becoming estranged from his father and going on to study at the Royal College of Music, David does play this concerto only to collapse at the end of the performance, suffering from a nervous breakdown.
The Rachmaninov Third Concerto is heard throughout the film, but most especially when the young David Helfgott performs the work at the end of his studies in London.
Academy Award Winner: Best Actor (Geoffrey Rush).
Academy Award Nominations: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Armin Müller-Stahl), Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
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