A tremendous film,
one that reminds us that there is an
art to the making of documentaries.
There is certainly art to the camera-work
here, for how else could at least some
of the magic of Venice come across so
strongly? The film documents the friendship
between Nono, Abbado and Pollini, a
formidable triumvirate. It makes for
fascinating viewing, although it is
to the 'bonus’ that I will return most
frequently. This is a live performance
of ... sofferte onde serene ...
from Salzburg; it’s gripping from first
to last. Some readers may recall Pollini's
DG recordings of this, and of Como
una ola de fuerza y luz.
The first thing to
strike the viewer is the crystal clarity
of image, something that enhances rather
than detracts from the atmosphere. There
is a touching quote from Nono that 'someday
I'll write a little piece for piano
and orchestra for the two of you'. The
three were friends for life, and the
post-Nono continuation of this relationship
is evidenced by a rehearsal of the first
movement of the Schumann Piano Concerto
in Carnegie Hall, New York; Schoenberg's
Pelleas was in the second half.
Interesting how Abbado smiles a lot
... as opposed to Pollini.
Pollini waxing lyrical
about Nono leads to some stunning shots
of Venice, the city so beloved of Nono.
We hear about the 'sound spaces' of
Venice and how he 'hears the colour
of the water' - how beautiful is that!
Nuria Nono provides
the link with the Schoenberg of course.
Nono married Schoenberg's daughter,
who interestingly only speaks in German.
Shots of Abbado conducting Pelleas
in rehearsal seem just right. And of
course politics is considered – 'Nono
composed with the sounds of the street,
a political space'.
... sofferte onde
serene ... forms part of the narrative
of the film - as well as being presented
complete in appendix - as does the great
Prometeo, excerpted here in the
context of St Mark's Basilica, a study
in the very nature of sound itself.
This is wonderful music. Interesting
also to see Pollini's affection for
the madrigals of Marenzio; we see him
attending a rehearsal for a concert
in a festival he designed. Along with
Frescobaldi, Marenzio was one of the
great experimenters with chromaticism.
And then of course
there’s Mahler. The description of the
opening of the First Symphony as sound
just discovered is a poignant one; the
section of the film entitled, 'Nono
and Mahler – Silence in music'. The
Ninth and Tenth symphonies come under
scrutiny as does death - inevitable
here - and the correlation of the role
of silence in Mahler and Nono.
The live performance
of ... sofferte ... is tremendous.
The audience sounds either very distant
or very sparse! It is good we can watch,
as it makes it easy to distinguish what
is pre-recorded and what is not. We
are also presented with parts of the
manuscript as the work progresses ...
and at the very end. It is notable that
whatever the disjunct intervals (the
sforzati) there is a clear lyric
impulse underpinning all. This is nowhere
more so than around the fourteen-minute
mark, possibly the score's most haunting
A DVD to treasure,
and one that is of real documentary
importance. May it win many converts
see also review
by Anne Ozorio