Notes and Editorial Reviews
A film by Bruno Monsaingeon
Piotr Anderszewski, piano; Dorothea Anderszewska, violin; Philharmonia Orchestra London, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel; Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Everything about Piotr Anderszewski is extraordinary: his talent, his repertoire, his constant questioning of his work as a performer. Any film about this highly unconventional pianist owes it to itself to depart from the beaten path: On the borderline between documentary and fiction, this "road movie" is set against the backdrop of a winter journey by train across Poland with a piano installed on board. Punctuated by Piotr's highly personal reflections, the repertoire consists of essential pages by Bach, Mozart,
Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann and Szymanowski.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Original Languges: French, English, Polish, Hungarian
Subtitles: English, German, French, Polish
Running time: 83 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
"In the documentary, Mr. Anderszewski, who speaks Polish, Hungarian, French and English in the film, is shown during a recording session, playing and conducting Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. On the concert tour, he travels in a specially appointed train car, complete with a kitchen, a dining area and a place for his Steinway grand, which we see being lifted onto the train by movers. In one scene he hosts a New Year’s Eve dinner party on board for friends.
Early in the film, right after Mr. Anderszewski’s confession about his frustrations with the pianist’s profession, he is shown in concert playing the lively Gigue from Bach’s Partita No. 1. Though he takes a brisk, nearly breathless tempo, the playing is so articulate that all the notes come through. Sometimes he really thumps out the bass notes, with clanking tone. Yet there is such zest in the playing over all that the effect is wonderfully ambiguous — like dangerous whimsy... in recent years I have found almost everything he does riveting... Revelatory scenes in the documentary convey the piercing insights that account for the freedom and daring of Mr. Anderszewski’s playing...
During several scenes Mr. Anderszewski animatedly plays excerpts from Mozart’s “Magic Flute,” an opera he finds “the most extreme in its ambiguity,” with music that perfectly juxtaposes “the sad, the joyous, the luminous, the divine, the impertinent.” He plays the orchestra music on the piano, singing, sometimes grunting all the vocal parts, attentive to every quirk. During the long Act II aria in which Papageno searches for his lost Papagena, begins to despair and threatens to hang himself, Mr. Anderszewski’s one-man performance is utterly insightful and completely charming. Papageno’s despair “never lasts,” he says, grinning warmly while he plays. “It’s a ludicrous kind of despair.” -- Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times (July 31, 2009)
It begins with a train. At first, it is not clear why this documentary about pianist Piotr
Anderszewski opens with shots of a train, but an explanation comes. Anderszewski, on a European tour, decided to travel in a private train carriage, rather than take airplanes or other means of locomotion, and this becomes his home for the duration of the tour. He has a piano installed there, and has a nice kitchen, a bedroom, and a small salon for his needs. He claims to enjoy the freedom of the train - the lack of needing to make decisions; just allowing the train-driver to take him where he is going.
Throughout this documentary, then, we go from different cities back to the train. We see Warsaw, London, Paris, Budapest, Lisbon and more, and we see the train. A train as a metaphor for the straight lines that Anderszewski follows, but that changes as he goes on. For this is more than a mere travelogue; Anderszewski gives a first-person voice-over, for much of the film, talking about his life and how he discovered music. He gives some interesting comments on the act of performing versus recording. Anderszewski discusses what music means to him, and what he hopes to accomplish by playing music. He notes that he plays best when he stops playing; when the music, as one might say, plays itself.
Anderszewski is an interesting pianist. He has not recorded a great deal, but his recordings are, for the most part, quite well respected. He seems somewhat detached from the whole ritual of performing, appearing to be quite a simple man, and certainly not a prima donna. There are numerous extracts of him playing recitals, rehearsals, and recording sessions. They show him as someone who is deeply passionate about music, someone who is profoundly moved by the music he plays. He discusses the composers most important to him - Chopin, Brahms, Bach, Szymanowski - and the cities he loves.
This is an enjoyable documentary, which could have benefited from more musical extracts. There is a lot of talking, and none of the pieces is performed in its entirety. But it shows that Anderszewski is an interesting musician, one aloof from the elite world of classical music, and one who seems to be well rooted in simplicity. Well filmed, and edited to be compellingly paced, this is worth watching for fans of Anderszewski or fans of piano music in general.
-- Kirk McElhearn, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Work(s) by Various
Piotr Anderszewski (Piano)
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