Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A special man in a special time and place

September 17, 2014:


Stravinsky may have been a towering genius and the greatest 20th century composer, but he was also an odd duck. The time Stravinsky spent in Hollywood in the 40s, 50s and 60s was considerable, and the artistic journey he took there was profound, in spite of his eccentricities. The stories told by the filmmaker Marco Capalbo in this film present both the music and the personality of a special man in a special place and time.

Some have complained about the re-enactments with actors portraying the Stravinskys and Robert Craft, but I enjoyed the performances enough to forgive the ingenuousness of the presentation. (With the focus on archival film, it’s not made clear in the DVD/Bluray packaging that these reenactments are part of the project at all. I’ve read reviews that talk about ‘home movies’, but there’s no mention of the actors.) Eric Gorlow, who plays Craft, has a Tony Perkins vibe, which is entirely appropriate for this charming but slightly sinister character. And Giovanni Ombra channels Stravinsky as Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson: bald, smoking cigarettes with a holder, and walking completely self-absorbed a few steps ahead of both Craft and Mrs. Stravinsky.

Stravinsky’s Hollywood hopes, like so many others (Heitor Villa-Lobos, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner to name a few) didn’t pan out, either in terms of his artistic or his pecuniary dreams. Neither composers nor writers were particularly valued by the system at the time. In one of the most striking sections of the film, Capalbo matches music Stravinsky originally planned with the scenes of classic movies he worked on, including Jane Eyre and The Song of Bernadette. What might have been!

The Bluray of the film looks and sounds splendid. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole project.

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