From WILL - Classic Mornings -

Lights, Camera, Reaction!

It has received a bit of attention as a classical music video of sorts.

A camera just happened to capture a most unusual moment during the filming of a concert performance.  That might qualify it as an “incidental music video.”  Just as incidental was the accompanying onstage drama which wasn’t scripted either. In fact, it was more like backstage drama that ended up on center stage with a dim spotlight.

A rehearsal/matinee concert in Amsterdam features the Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires with the Royal Concertgebow Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Pires, sitting at the piano, hears the orchestral opening of Mozart’s 20th piano concerto – not the concerto she was expecting and for which she had prepared. There’s a rather shocked and painful look on her face. The orchestra continues to play the more than 2 minute long introduction to the 30 minute concerto. It’s in a minor key, which turns out to be tailor-made for dramatic effect. Pires and Chailly exchange words. She’s a bit upset, a bit apologetic. Chailly is rather calm and assures her that she knows the work they’re playing. He reminds her that she played it with the orchestra the previous year.  She tells him that she’ll do her best. When the moment arrives for the soloist to begin, you can guess that the entire performance probably was as memorable as the opening measures played by Pires.  The scene fades out at that point.

The video is an excerpt from a documentary by Frank Scheffer titled Attrazione d’amore which was intended to give audiences a glimpse of the working relationship between Riccardo Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  The film includes interview footage with Chailly.  It was made in 1998 when Chailly was the Principal Conductor. The excerpt feauring Maria João Pires found its way online in 2010 and seems to have generated a bit of discussion over the past year or so.

I came upon the video while preparing to celebrate Maria João Pires’s 70th birthday on the Classic Morning Prelude back on July 23rd. I shared the story with listeners that morning. Pires, who was born in Lisbon, first appeared in public as a pianist at age 4. She gave her first public performances of Mozart concertos at age 7. You have to wonder if she was nervous back then. If so, you can only guess that whatever she learned about overcoming nervousness would serve her well over the years. 

Pianist Stephen Hough, commenting on the event in a blog for The Telegraph of London (October 27, 2013) reminded readers that Pires has played the work regularly throughout her career. That having been said, he too was amazed at how she was able to recover and bring her unique colors to the opening of the concerto.  Many will enjoy the film just for the drama. Yet there’s a lot more than the on-stage survival that’s so fascinating. For an artist, it’s never about just getting through a performance. You can sense the magic when Pires meets Mozart.

Speaking of magic, The Wizard of Oz  continues to fascinate audiences 75 years after its premiere.That’s not at all incidental. The filmmakers intended nothing less. It doesn’t end there either. You can find so many captivating stories about the making of the film, though there’s always a fine line between wanting to know more and spoiling the magic.  Many of the stories began to surface again last week. I found myself lost in some of those presented online and by the BBC both early Friday morning and Friday evening on AM580. Could anybody have guessed it would become as big as it did?  Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the premieres – yes, there were several, including sneak previews in a few cities. Can you imagine having gotten to see a sneak preview of The Wizard of Oz in 1939? I understand that those folks were in for a special treat: footage that nobody else has ever seen, since it was cut out of the film before the official premieres. We celebrated with a little medley of Harold Arlen’s tunes, arranged for piano quintet by György Mondvey for the ensemble I Salonisti. The medley includes the Jitterbug Song that was cut along with the scene for which it was written. According to IMDB, the scene exists only in home movies that Arlen filmed during rehearsals.

“Lions and tigers and bears”  - and Dragons. On July 28th, we celebrated the centennial of the birth of the American conductor/composer/arranger Carmen Dragon (1914-84) on the Classic Morning Prelude. He was the Dragon who helped train young people to appreciate classical music as a part of a syndicated radio program that began in the late 1920s and ran for decades. Carmen Dragon once served as music director of the program, conducting an orchestra with which he became associated: The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. (By the way, he was the father of 3 other musical Dragons including keyboard player Daryl Dragon - better known as “The Captain” of The Captain and Tenille, drummer Dennis Dragon and harpist Carmen E. Dragon.)  We heard performances with Carmen Dragon and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, including a selection from Bizet’s Carmen.

That’s just a small sampling of the fun we’ve had recently on Classic Mornings and the Classic Morning Prelude. There are musical celebrations every morning. We’ve also had the chance to listen to some newly released performances along with the old favorites we continue to enjoy.  Join us Monday through Friday from 9-noon for Classic Mornings and at 8:50 for the Classic Morning Prelude on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.