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Sergei Nakariakov - No More Wunderkind

Release Date: 08/27/2013 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 101681  
Composer:  Various
Performer:  Sergei Nakariakov
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

"Sergei Nakariakov plays the trumpet the way the rest of us breathe – if we are lucky." -- San Francisco Chronicle

A film by Jan Schmidt-Garre

Sergei Nakariakov, trumpet

- Sergei Nakariakov plays pieces by Robert Schumann, Oskar Böhme, Francis Poulenc and others

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Audio language: German
Subtitles: English, French
Running time: 60 mins (documentary) + 26 mins (bonus)
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

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NO MORE WUNDERKIND: SERGEI NAKARIAKOV & Sergei Nakariakov (tpt, hn); with various accompaniments ARTHAUS 101681 (DVD: 58: 00+26:00)

& SCHUMANN Fantasiestücke, op. 73. RUEFF Sonatine. BÖHME La Napolitaine, Tarantelle, op. 25. POULENC Eiffel Tower Polka. Les chemins de l’amour Sergei Nakariakov (tpt, hn); Maria Meerovitch (pn)

This DVD is strongly recommended viewing not only for fans of Nakariakov or of classical trumpet playing in general, but for anyone involved in the classical music business. It is a perfect illustration of how a talented youngster with an instinctive knack for a particular instrument is turned into a performing monkey by an ambitious family; how even a certain amount of fame and appreciation for his technical skills made him known within his sphere but not particularly happy; and, in the end, how he was able to overcome the forced hard work of his youth and a proclivity towards show-off technique to become a real artist. Sergei Nakariakov’s story is in some ways unique to him, but in many ways universal. I’m sure that there are hundreds of thousands of such “talented Wunderkinds,” particularly all those baby ballerinas and the plethora of little kids forced into Suzuki-method violin classes, who sometimes wish they were never born and can only dream of a life free of incessant practice and playing.

Because being an artist—feeling like one and becoming one—is not always something that goes with the technical training that one receives, just as not every kid who is forced to practice until his arms and legs fall off to become a Little League star goes to the majors, or even wants to be a ballplayer. Stage parents can be, and are often, the bane of talented children, the worst case scenario being one Blanche Bustabo, who forced her talented daughter Guila to go to Nazi Germany and make her career there when she knew it was the worst possible place for her to be. Even when a bad political situation is not looming over their heads, many so-called “Wunderkinds” would rather be going to movies or, in fact, doing almost anything other than being one.

In this film by Jan Schmidt-Garre, we see both of Nakariakov’s parents separately; apparently, they are divorced or separated. One doesn’t need ESP or psychic powers to realize that his mother was a real “stage mom” to both Sergei and his sister. There is but one scene in which Sergei is sitting with his mother while she talks—he remains silent—but there are dozens of scenes of Sergei with his father, and when filmed alone he admits that his father was a tremendous help to him. There are also several clips of Nakariakov at the age of 10–12, playing pieces like The Carnival of Venice and Hora Staccato on both Soviet and French television. In none of them does he look happy or at ease. He looks like what he was at that time: a performing monkey. The later, adult Sergei talks about what it was like: trumpet students in awe of his technique coming up to him afterwards and congratulating him while more sensitive musicians basically ignored him because they thought he was just a stunt player. To someone with real musical sensitivity, that had to hurt.

The real value of this film is to see that the adult Nakariakov did indeed become the artist he always wanted to be. In rehearsal and performance, we see him occasionally playing a regular trumpet, and in one short clip a Baroque trumpet, but most of the time he is playing a very unusual flugelhorn: the bell stem is much longer than usual and it has four valves instead of three. Nakariakov later reveals that this was an instrument he had specially made for him because he loves its warmer, more French horn-like tone. The extra valve allows him to access an extended low range that sounds like the very lowest pedal tone on a regular trumpet, but with a rounder, more beautiful tone, not the usual “blap” sound that pedal tones generally produce. His playing, by the way, is indeed extraordinary: it almost sounds as if he is using circular breathing, so flawless and pure is his legato, and each piece he plays sounds as if it is being exhaled in one long breath. This is absolutely extraordinary playing, and one can clearly hear the influence of his early idol, the great Russian trumpeter Timofey Dokschitzer, whose performances of Bach pieces with organ both inspired and intimidated the young Nakariakov. The only other trumpet playing I’ve ever heard that possessed Nakariakov’s mellowness of tone and timbre was on the few recordings where Tommy Dorsey played the instrument, back in the late 1920s—and Dorsey was the trombonist who completely changed everyone’s concept of how that instrument should sound, though he has never received credit for this because (a) he was not considered a “legitimate” or classical player, and (b) I’ve never heard even one classical trombonist, even unto the present day, who could play the instrument as well as TD.

The lone mistake in this wonderful documentary comes near the end. Nakariakov is playing some concerto transcribed for the trumpet; the music sounds resolutely Russian in character, almost like a kazatsky; yet the onscreen credits claim it is the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. A violin concerto it well may be, but Mendelssohn it is not!

In some of the rehearsal footage sprinkled throughout the documentary, pianist Maria Meerovitch is seen gently chiding Nakariakov for missing a note here and there in the score, which he then corrects, but it’s also fairly obvious that theirs is a friendly and warm working relationship. Thus one expects, and receives, outstanding performances in the bonus footage. Even in the most rapid passages, such as Schumann’s third Fantasiestücke, Nakariakov plays with astounding mellowness, so much so that the “martial” quality of the instrument is completely subjugated to the musical concept. My only complaint is that Meerovitch’s piano (a Steinway) has a rather crisp tone; a mellower instrument would have matched Nakariakov’s sound better (only in Poulenc’s brief Eiffel Tower Polka does its bright tone sound right for the specific piece). Other than that, however, they are in complete communion aesthetically. Even in such technical showpieces as Jeannine Rueff’s harmonically adventurous Sonatine or Oskar Böhme’s rapid-fire tarantella La Napolitaine, where Nakariakov switches to trumpet, his playing retains its remarkable roundness, even when using a mute. However he accomplishes it, what Nakariakov does is to minimize the amount of “air” between notes; in this way he creates a continuous, lyrical flow with the instrument, something no other trumpeter (except, as mentioned, Tommy Dorsey) has ever accomplished to my knowledge. To be honest, though, Nakariakov isn’t that interesting to watch. Meerovitch is a lively and animated pianist, but the trumpeter just stands there calmly, eyes closed, playing as if in a dream world.

This is, as I say, both a remarkable and an instructive video, thus I recommend it very highly for both reasons.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Work(s) by Various
Performer:  Sergei Nakariakov (Trumpet)

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