IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN – INSIDER BRIEFING
In this exclusive Insider Briefing, Phil Grabsky explains why – despite the
hardships and hassles - he couldn’t help himself making another In Search of …
movie; after Mozart, he searched for Beethoven (recording 55 performances!) -
and was surprised at what he found.
There's a phrase isn't there? Once bitten, twice shy... Well, having made In
Search Of Mozart, I was rightly a bit hesitant about repeating what is an
extremely difficult process. No wonder it hasn't been done before! But I
couldn't help myself - if musicians and conductors were agreeing with me that
Mozart was one of the greatest composers, indeed creative people, in history and
yet maybe Beethoven was better, I just had to know more.... And, two years
later, here we are: In Search Of Beethoven, by hook and by crook, brings
together the world's leading performers and experts on Beethoven to reveal new
insights into this legendary composer.
"capture the raw energy of these world-class artists"
The line-up of performers and interviewees includes Gianandrea Noseda, Sir
Roger Norrington, Riccardo Chailly, Claudio Abbado, Fabio Luisi, Frans Brüggen,
Ronald Brautigam, Hélčne Grimaud, Vadim Repin, Janine Jansen, Paul Lewis, Lars
Vogt, and Emanuel Ax among others. The film is narrated by Juliet Stevenson and
young RSC actor David Dawson. Immodestly I have to say it's a cast list of my
dreams. And through them, the film takes a comprehensive look at the composer's
life through his musical output, chronologically marrying it to Beethoven’s
biography and letters.
I travelled across Europe and North America to interview historians and
musicians between rehearsals and performances. It was a struggle, up against all
sorts of budgetary problems, filming difficulties, permission nightmares but in
the end we managed to catch a pretty remarkable 55 performances for the film -
and once again capture the raw energy of these world-class artists.
"a Beethoven that will surprise you"
It includes exclusive footage of Claudio Abbado's critically-acclaimed
performance of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. There are further performances from
Frans Brüggen's Orchestra of the 18th Century, the Salzburg Camerata with Sir
Roger Norrington, Leipzig Gewandhaus with Riccardo Chailly, Vienna Symphony with
Fabio Luisi, violinists Vadim Repin, Janine Jansen or pianists Leif Ove Andsnes,
Ronald Brautigam, Jonathan Biss, Emanuel Ax, Lars Vogt and cellist Alban
Gerhardt all revealing their unique approach and share their passions. The
Endellion String Quartet gave exclusive access to film a number of complete
Beethoven quartets. These musicians are of course the stars of the show in one
way but it is Beethoven's quite extraordinary music that drives the film along.
More than that though, I wanted to know just who he really was; I wanted to
address the romantic myth that Beethoven was a heroic, tormented figure battling
to overcome his tragic fate, struck down by deafness, who searched for his
'immortal beloved' but remained unmarried. I wanted to delve beyond the image of
the tortured, cantankerous, unhinged personality, to reveal just what was the
truth - and along the way I did discover a Beethoven that will surprise you. He
is not what you imagine. Not what I imagined. To find the real man, I went back
to the letters, the locations and of course the music. There are so many stories
that get repeated endlessly but where do they come from? It didn't take long to
realise that much has been exaggerated and distorted. (Ed: “…you will be
enthralled by this fabulous and insightful doco that humanises the man behind
the genius,” says Louise.)
I think that's why musicians gave me such great access - because they too wanted
to know just who was the man whose music they have played since picking up their
instruments as children. It's so easy to fall for the legends and myths - and
perhaps no composers illustrate that more than Mozart and Beethoven. Naturally
one can listen to Beethoven's music without knowing a thing about him and,
frankly, if you have hot blood in your veins, you will, no matter your age, be
stunned. But the more one learns about him, his times, his contemporaries and so
forth, the more impressive the music becomes.
"a passion for what I do"
These are extremely tough films to make and I only achieve it - with my
trusty team - because I am a cinematographer too that shoots my own films,
because I give myself the time to make these films, and because I absolutely
have a passion for what I do. At times when I'm struggling along onto a night
train in Europe with 5 cases of High Definition camera gear, I wonder if it's
worth it, but when I turn the camera on right next to a pianist like Emanual Ax
or a violinist like Janine Jansen , it's all worth it. So much so, that -
between you and me - I've just started another one....
Published October 8, 2009
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In Search of Beethoven opens nationally October 22, 2009
Sessions and venues:
Director Phil Grabsky will be touring Australian cinemas during October 2009 to
present his new film and answer questions:
Noosa Cinemas, Qld, Oct 12
Palace Barracks, Qld, Oct 13
Cremorne Orpheum, Sydney, Oct 14
Avoca Beach, NSW, Oct 15
Carlton Nova, Vic, Oct 18
State Hobart, Tas, Oct, 19
East End, Adelaide, SA, Oct 21
Cinema Paradiso, Perth, WA, Oct 24