Wednesday, August 31, 2016

REVIEW: "Maestro" a documentary

The task of presenting classical music to a new audience is daunting.  One must be encouraging yet careful in their enthusiasm in order to spread the word….These days, there are still a number of musicians that perform this music like a massive ring of fire. World renowned conductor, Paavo Järvi is arguably at the top of the list and is featured in the appropriately-titled film documentary, “Maestro”.  

As Pierre Bezukhov watches the French invasion of Russia in “War and Peace”, so Paavo Järvi watches the vibrance and struggles of working as a successful classical musician in today’s multi-layered world.  Writer and director, David Donnelly shows us a unique approach to film making.  Rather than making this a documentary only about Järvi, “Maestro” is more a film about the riches of classical music, for which Järvi is the lead character.  

As we look at Paavo Järvi’s life growing up in Estonia and then his studies in Los Angeles with Leonard Bernstein, we see that for him, the music is all that matters.  It is a value instilled in him through his genuine love for it after the horrors of living in Estonia occupied by the Soviets.  Even in his later successful career, this devotion continues as he tries to balance his musical life and the life he has with his two children.  

Amidst all this, Donnelly provides us with pivotal moments, seeing the riches of classical music through clips of rehearsals and performances led by Maestro Järvi, intermixed with interviews of young aspiring musicians and of music’s finest like Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell, commenting on Järvi’s great influence on the podium. 

Throughout it all, Paavo Järvi is shown to be a genuine leader of his orchestras. He GUIDES them to do the best performance possible, rather than dictating.  Järvi considers himself a servant of the music, stating “I get to work with the greatest geniuses in human history.”

At the climax of the film, the celebrated pianist, Lang Lang, scorches through the last few minutes of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3 with an enthusiasm aided by Järvi and the Orchestre de Paris. One could guess that anyone new to this genre, seeing this performance, would be in love with it immediately. 

“Maestro” gives an approach to classical music that is encouraging to new listeners, but with a benevolent attitude.  In a perfect world, the music should speak for itself.  But as Järvi suggests: “Somebody has to open a door for you and say ‘Ok, listen. Come with me. Listen to this. What do you think of this?’” .  “Maestro” accomplishes that.


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