Movies about Classical Composers

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Richard
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Movies about Classical Composers

Post by Richard » Mon Jun 12, 2006 9:47 pm

Can you list and give impressions of movies, you have seen, about classical composers? I will list a few:

GOOD:

Amadeus (1984). (Tom Hulce/Mozart- F Murray Abraham/Salieri).I know a lot of CMG'ers would disagree, but I really liked the movie. Yes, it did portray Mozart as a buffoon. However, it was a movie for a mast audience. I don't think it could be done with historical accuracy and have any sort of popularity. Perhaps Hulce wasn't the one to play Mozart, but I thought Abraham was very good as Salieri. The blending in of variouis Mozart works with the movie scenes was, I thought, quite well done.

Bride of the Wind (2001). The life of Alma Mahler (Alma Mahler, Sarah Wynter, Gustav Mahler, Jonathan Pryce). It kept me interested for the length of the movie.

NEUTRAL:

Song of Norway (1970). Music was good, movie was fair, from what I can remember. Did anyone see "What Price Immortality" (1999)..also about Edward Grieg?

Impromptu (1991). About Chopin and George Sand (Hugh Grant as Chopin, Judy Davis as George Sand). Interesting, but I thought the movie went nowhere.

Wagner (1983). An all-star cast with Richard Burton as Richard Wagner and Vanessa Redgrave as Cosima. Also with John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, and Lawrence Olivier. A tremendous cast and very interesting. The length of the original movie (took up 2 VHS cassettes) was at least 5.5 hours. It should have been condensed to 2 to 2.5 hours. Too long a movie.


BAD:

"Lisztomania" (Ken Russell flick). Just too weird for my taste.

"The Music Lovers" (1970). About Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky and Glenda Jackson as Nina (Ken Russell flick, also).
I saw this, for the first time, about a year ago. Good actors and good acting, but I thought the whole thing was frivolous, illogical, and downright silly. The "Internet Movie Data Base" raved..thought it was great. I could never see how Chamberlain was picked to play the title role..a complete miscast, in my opinion.

I can remember seeing a lot of old movies, about composers such as Liszt, Chopin, Grieg, Schubert, and others. Can't remember the titles.
Maybe I can get some hints to kindle my memory.

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Post by mellowfall » Mon Jun 12, 2006 11:23 pm

I saw "Amadeus" a year ago and enjoyed it.I liked the use of relatively unknown actors-fresh faces. I also liked the connection put across between genius and childlike prankishness.

The partsabout his composing the Requiem were very moving.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 13, 2006 12:43 am

mellowfall wrote:I saw "Amadeus" a year ago and enjoyed it.I liked the use of relatively unknown actors-fresh faces. I also liked the connection put across between genius and childlike prankishness.

The partsabout his composing the Requiem were very moving.
You have to know your Mozart biography to avoid being dazzled by the near-truths and outright fictions of the movie/play, but it still is one of the most outstanding movies about musicians ever made. I saw it at least 5 times in the theater. I thought the choice of actors was perfect. None of the principals has ever been in anything as good, before or since.
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taisiawshan
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Post by taisiawshan » Tue Jun 13, 2006 2:45 am

There's one about Beethoven, don't remember the title.
It is about his love for a lady & her son who seems to be his nephew.
Don't know whether the story is true or not, but I like the movie as a movie.

Dies Irae

Re: Movies about Classical Composers

Post by Dies Irae » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:29 am

Richard wrote: "The Music Lovers" (1970). About Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky and Glenda Jackson as Nina (Ken Russell flick, also).
I saw this, for the first time, about a year ago. Good actors and good acting, but I thought the whole thing was frivolous, illogical, and downright silly. The "Internet Movie Data Base" raved..thought it was great. I could never see how Chamberlain was picked to play the title role..a complete miscast, in my opinion.
I think the casting was a stroke of genius. Both Chamberlain and Tschaikovsky are/were admittedly homosexual.

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Post by pizza » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:57 am

There was "Rhapsody in Blue", a 1945 movie about George Gershwin with a cast that's much more interesting than the movie: Robert Alda, Joan Leslie, Al Jolson, Alexis Smith, Charles Coburn, Oscar Levant, Paul Whiteman, George White, Hazel Scott, Morris Carnovsky, Rosemary DeCamp; of course the music s'wonderful!

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:58 am

taisiawshan wrote:There's one about Beethoven, don't remember the title.
It is about his love for a lady & her son who seems to be his nephew.
Don't know whether the story is true or not, but I like the movie as a movie.
Yes, you're referring to "Imortal Beloved", with a fine Gary Oldman as Beethoven and Jeroén Krabbé as his friend Schindler. It's a great movie, not only as composer bios go, wonderfully acted. Leonard Maltin gave it *** out of four!

Another fine one is from 1947: Paul Henreid played Schumann and Katherine Hepburn Clara in "Song of Love", with Robert Walker as Brahms and Henry Daniell as Liszt. A bit corny, but well-directed and acted with beautiful music.

The "Song of Norway" I found extremely silly and an embarrassment to Grieg and his music. That kind of take might have been okay for Johann Strauss, Jr. or Jacques Offenbach but not for the Norwegan!

A German film, "Frühlings-Sinfonie", produced in the early 1980's I believe, had Nastasia Kinski as Clara Wieck and Schumann was played by Herbert Grönemeyer, a pop-singer over here. It was good!! And he did well in the classical part.

I'd like to see the t.v. film about Handel---played by Sir Peter Ustinov...

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

Agnes Selby
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Films

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:08 am

mellowfall wrote:I saw "Amadeus" a year ago and enjoyed it.I liked the use of relatively unknown actors-fresh faces. I also liked the connection put across between genius and childlike prankishness.

The partsabout his composing the Requiem were very moving.
------------------

The movie Amadeus has little to do with Mozart. It could have been
a film about an imaginary composer named Joe Shmo.

During Mozart's lifetime, Salieri was regarded with great respect
and considered a more worthy composer than Mozart. He had absolutely
nothing to be jealous of Mozart. His relationship with Mozart was friendly
to the end.

In fact, when Mozart was not invited to the coronation if Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor in the autumn of 1790, Salieri arrived in Frankfurt
with three Mozart Masses in manuscript form. These were the K258 (The Piccolomini Mass), K317 (The Coronation Mass) and K337. In addition to these three Masses, Salieri also conducted the splendid choruses from
Thamos as well as The Offertorium Misericordias Domini K222. Thereby
ensuring Mozart's musical presence at the coronation.

Salieri also performed the "Marriage of Figaro" on August 29, 1789 after it had been dropped from the repertoire.

The play and film "Amadeus" is based on Pushkin's play. It made quite a bit of money for Pushkin and likewise for the producers of "Amadeus".

I am glad to hear that the composing of the Requiem brought tears to
your eyes but here again we have a legend based on a writer's
article which appeared in 1792 in the Algemeine Musikalische Zeitung and had nothing to do with reality.

Had Mozart been the twit presented in "Amadeus" he would not have
been able to teach his many distinguished and noble students nor would
he have been the first composer to organise his own subscription series which he did with great financial success.

As we know from current research, Mozart did not die a pauper nor was
he buried as one. His problems with gambling embittered his life at the
end. However, Salieri had nothing to do with Mozart's death.

Regards,
Agnes.
-----------------

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Post by GK » Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:49 am

Ken Russell also did the movie "Mahler" (1974) which I thought was pretty good.

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Post by Ricordanza » Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:07 am

Wasn't there also a movie about Liszt from the 1950's? I believe that Jorge Bolet was the pianist on the soundtrack.

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Post by Bill_N » Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:35 am

I was just thinking about that movie. It was called 'Song Without End', and starred Dirk Bogarde as Liszt. I remember watching it on TV about twenty years ago, but the only thing that stuck in my mind was a comment from a friend of mine, as we were about two hours into the thing, that it should have been called 'Movie Without End'.

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Post by mellowfall » Tue Jun 13, 2006 6:36 am

Agnes: thanks for the post. So yet another example of cinema "legendizing"maybe for the sake of plot or story. As always truth is stranger.

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Jorge Bolet

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Jun 13, 2006 7:27 am

Ricordanza wrote:Wasn't there also a movie about Liszt from the 1950's? I believe that Jorge Bolet was the pianist on the soundtrack.
--------------------

Jorge Bolet was a wonderful teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He gave wonderful concerts there and was an inspiration
to the students as an artist and a gentleman.
---------------------

SamLowry
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Post by SamLowry » Tue Jun 13, 2006 9:44 am

Robert Greenburg calls Salieri "one of the most viciously libeled men in history." Is this almost entirely because of the movie/play?

Another likely incorrect impression given by "Amadeus" is the ease with which Mozart composed. We see Salieri sitting at the keyboard, struggling to receive "divine inspiration" while Mozart's real work is done at a billiards table.

In 1781 Mozart wrote to his father: "I am now going off to hire a clavier, for until there is one in my room, I cannot live in it, because I have so much to compose and not a minute to be lost."

I'm not saying Mozart had difficulty composing, it's just that the movie exaggerates. My source for the Mozart quote is Rosen's book, Piano Notes, where he says "Schumann, in particular, felt ashamed of his reliance on the piano for inspiration." I seem to remember that Bach is supposed to have used the denigrating term "knights of the keyboard" for those who only wrote while seated at a clavier.

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Post by lmpower » Tue Jun 13, 2006 1:42 pm

My favorite was "Song of Love" featuring Paul Henried as Schumann, Katharine Hepburn as Clara and Robert Walker as Brahms. It seemed true to the spirit of their situation and only twisted the facts a little bit. The acting was superb of course.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jun 13, 2006 2:08 pm

SamLowry wrote:Robert Greenburg calls Salieri "one of the most viciously libeled men in history." Is this almost entirely because of the movie/play?
No, the play/movie merely capitalizes on whiffs in the ether in the 19th Century. There were biographies that actually asserted that Salieri poisoned Mozart. It's hard for people to reconcile to the idea of a young genius dying without foul play.
Another likely incorrect impression given by "Amadeus" is the ease with which Mozart composed. We see Salieri sitting at the keyboard, struggling to receive "divine inspiration" while Mozart's real work is done at a billiards table. * * * I'm not saying Mozart had difficulty composing, it's just that the movie exaggerates.
I think the movie nailed it. He complained in another letter to his father about one of his "rivals" Clementi, that his composing was so labored and tediously time consuming. He characterized his own speed of composing as "as the sow pisses." Hard to think of that as not bragging about how quickly he produced finished works.

BTW I loved that scene at the billiard table. That was the first time I realized that Mozart's genius lay in how he used winds, as well as how emotional his music was.
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Post by Lark Ascending » Tue Jun 13, 2006 2:18 pm

I understand there to be a film about Delius, but I know nothing about it - can anyone shed any light? I would like to see it as the composer is one of my favourites.
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

Guest

Post by Guest » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:06 pm

How about a film based on the life of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Think it will happen, Ralph?

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:22 pm

Anonymous wrote:How about a film based on the life of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Think it will happen, Ralph?
*****

Cecil B. DeMille was embittered that he could never raise the finances necessary to film his projected epic about Ditersdorf. He had Jimmy Stewart lined up to play the composer. Supposedly, Stewart was very committed to the idea.
Image

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Albert Einstein

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Post by SamLowry » Tue Jun 13, 2006 3:37 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
I think the movie nailed it. He complained in another letter to his father about one of his "rivals" Clementi, that his composing was so labored and tediously time consuming. He characterized his own speed of composing as "as the sow pisses." Hard to think of that as not bragging about how quickly he produced finished works.

BTW I loved that scene at the billiard table. That was the first time I realized that Mozart's genius lay in how he used winds, as well as how emotional his music was.
I loved the billiard ball scene too -- along with "doesn't need to make corrections when writing music down" -- but I don't believe either anymore, at least not entirely. Didn't stop me from buying three Mozart CDs yesterday.

I think the best thing about the whole movie is the great job F. Murray Abraham did, in spite of whether he was taking part in libel. He allowed the typical moviegoer to get a glimpse, "through his eyes," of genius.

"I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes - at an absolute beauty."

When do we get a good movie about Haydn, anyway? Okay, even an average movie about him.

Guest

Post by Guest » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:05 pm

Ralph wrote:
Anonymous wrote:How about a film based on the life of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. Think it will happen, Ralph?
*****

Cecil B. DeMille was embittered that he could never raise the finances necessary to film his projected epic about Ditersdorf. He had Jimmy Stewart lined up to play the composer. Supposedly, Stewart was very committed to the idea.
That was me, Ralph, as "anonymous" who posted. One these days, I'm going to have to figure out how to use the CMG forum. I don't know why it took me as "anomymous".

Well, I sort of envisioned Werner Klemperer in the part of Dittersdorf. But come to think of it, Jimmy Stewart would be perfect !

Richard

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Haydn

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:07 pm

When do we get a good movie about Haydn, anyway? Okay, even an average movie about him.[/quote]
---------------------------------

A movie about Haydn would really be something!
All his love affairs, the neglected wife, a mistress in
Vienna jealous of the mistress in London. A great, juicy idea for Hollywood. And it would all be TRUE.
---------------------------

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Post by Michael » Tue Jun 13, 2006 5:13 pm

Lark Ascending wrote:I understand there to be a film about Delius, but I know nothing about it - can anyone shed any light? I would like to see it as the composer is one of my favourites.
It's called 'Delius. Song of Summer'
Haven't seen it but read about it here

http://www.iofilm.co.uk/fm/d/delius__so ... 1968.shtml
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

Dies Irae

Post by Dies Irae » Wed Jun 14, 2006 1:59 am

Michael wrote:
It's called 'Delius. Song of Summer'
Any film about Delius would have to involve Sir Thomas Beecham, who was the great "champion" of his music. Who would you cast in THAT role?

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Post by val » Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:55 am

I didn't like Amadeus und, much less, the movie where Oldman caricatures Beethoven.

To me, the two best movies about composers are:

"Touts les matins du monde", about Marin Marais, with Depardieu, made with historic fidelity and beautiful music.

Straube's film about Anna Magdalena Bach, with Gustav Leonhardt.

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Post by Lark Ascending » Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:59 pm

Michael, thank you for the information about the Delius film.
"Look here, I have given up my time, my work, my friends and my career to come here and learn from you, and I am not going to write a petit menuet dans le style de Mozart." - Ralph Vaughan Williams to Maurice Ravel

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Post by AntonioA » Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:40 pm

Waltzes from Vienna (1934) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. About Johann Strauss. I have never seen it.

Death in Venice (1971) , by Luchinto Visconti . Loosely based on a story by Thomas Mann, loosely based on Mahler´s last years. A beautiful film!
Mahler´s music is on the soundtrack

Ludwig (1972) another Visconti film, about Ludwvig of Bavaria, but Wagner appears in it played by trevor Howard. Not bad.

Hip hip hurra! (1987) by Kjell Grede Swedish composer Hugo Alfven is one of the characters in a well acted film about a group of artists. But I didn´t like that film very much. Mahler´s first symphony is on the soundtrack

"Rhapsody in Blue" directed by Eric Goldberg from Fantasia 2000 (1999)
My favorite episode from the Fantasia sequel. Gershwin (animated) is one of many characters in this episode.
Last edited by AntonioA on Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:50 pm

AntonioA wrote:Death in Venice (1971) , by Luchinto Visconti . Loosely based on a story by Thomas Mann, loosely based on Mahler´s last years. A beautiful film!
Mahler´s music is on the soundtrack
That scene when the conductor is in the gondola and the surroundings take on an otherworldly appearance with the Mahler #5 adagio in the background still blows me away. The first time I saw it and heard the music, I thought Visconti nailed the atmosphere perfectly.
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AntonioA
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Post by AntonioA » Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:00 pm

Death in Venice was my first encounter with Mahler´s music (i'm not the only one). It´s one of Dirk Bogardes greatest perfomances and that says a lot.
AntonioA

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:01 pm

AntonioA wrote:Death in Venice was my first encounter with Mahler´s music (i'm not the only one). It´s one of Dirk Bogardes greatest perfomances and that says a lot.
I agree completely. A fine actor in very good vehicles.
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Post by GK » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:05 pm

AntonioA wrote:Waltzes from Vienna (1934) directed by Alfred Hitchcock. About Johann Strauss. I have never seen it.

Death in Venice (1971) , by Luchinto Visconti . Loosely based on a story by Thomas Mann, loosely based on Mahler´s last years. A beautiful film!
Mahler´s music is on the soundtrack

Ludwig (1972) another Visconti film, about Ludwvig of Bavaria, but Wagner appears in it played by trevor Howard. Not bad.

Hip hip hurra! (1987) by Kjell Grede Swedish composer Hugo Alfven is one of the characters in a well acted film about a group of artists. But I didn´t like that film very much. Mahler´s first symphony is on the soundtrack

"Rhapsody in Blue" directed by Eric Goldberg from Fantasia 2000 (1999)
My favorite episode from the Fantasia sequel. Gershwin (animated) is one of many characters in this episode.
In Death in Venice I was under the impression that the character portrayed by Dirk Bogarde was a fictionalized version of Thomas Mann himself, not Mahler.

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Post by Ralph » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:54 pm

Death in Venice
a k a Morte a Venezia
1971-France/Italy-Period Film/Psychological Drama/Gay & Lesbian Films
N.Y. Times Review by Vincent Canby
Best 1,000
PLOT DESCRIPTION
Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice stars Dirk Bogarde as a German composer who is terrified that he has lost all vestiges of humanity. While visiting Venice, Bogarde falls in love with a beautiful young boy (Bjorn Andresen). The relationship is ruined by Bogarde's obsession with the boy's youth and physical perfection; the composer realizes that the child represents an ideal that he can never match. The character played by Dirk Bogarde is evidently intended to be Gustav Mahler, whose haunting music is featured on the film's soundtrack. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Jun 15, 2006 1:28 am

I don't think one should think of the composer in the movie as Mahler any more than one sould think of the author in the book as Thomas Mann.
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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Jun 16, 2006 8:09 am

Another good one, I do believe not yet mentioned, was "A Song to Remember" with Cornell Wilde as Chopin....but STARRING the great Paul Muni as Chopin's teacher (and in a nice, big role).

The fine German-speaking actor, Joseph Schildkraut ("The Diary of Anne Frank") played Franz Liszt. A hugely entertaining film, with Muni doing more than his fair share of chewing on the scenery.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by lmpower » Fri Jun 16, 2006 11:34 am

Yes Jack, A Song to Remember was the movie which originally got me to appreciate classical music so many years ago. I owe that film a special debt of gratitude.

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