One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

Yes we are selling
Acte Prealable again!
£11 post-free

we also sell Skarbo

and Oboe Classics


with Eggebrecht we get all the excitement we can handle

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Asmik Grigorian

Breathtaking Performance
controversial staging
Review Westbrook
Review Hedley
Every lover of Salome should see this recording
Mullenger interpretation

absolutely thrilling

immediacy and spontaneity

Schumann Lieder

24 Preludes
one of the finest piano discs

‘Box of Delights.’

J S Bach A New Angle
Organ fans form an orderly queue

a most welcome issue

I enjoyed it tremendously

the finest traditions of the house

music for theorbo
old and new

John Luther Adams
Become Desert
concealing a terrifying message

ground-breaking, winning release

screams quality

Surprise of the month

English Coronation, 1902-1953
magnificent achievement

Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 52,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Rudolf Barshai: The Note - A lifelong quest for one single note
A film by Oleg Dorman
TV Format 16:9
Sound PCM Stereo. Languages E, D, F, R
Region Code 0 (worldwide)
EUROARTS DVD 2059528 [90:00]

This is, in effect, a reflective monologue focusing on the life and times of violist and conductor Rudolf Barshai. Sixty hours of conversation were recorded, in Russian, over a period of ten days. A few weeks later Barshai died.

Filmed in his Swiss mountain home, he looks back wryly and penetratingly over his long life and each of the thirteen chapter headings follows a train of thought or a passage of life: Mahler's Tenth Symphony, Beethoven and Shostakovich; Difficulties with the Communist State; Emigration, and so on. The monologue is not really linear and certainly not chronological. Instead, he casts his mind widely, and the structure imposes some chronological markers along the way. Thus we begin with his recollections of his Cossack mother - 'Jewish by faith' - before turning almost immediately to his astonishment at hearing the Ormandy's Philadelphia recording of the Mahler/Cooke Tenth. 'But it didn't sound right' adds Barshai, thus beginning a long quest of his own to complete the Tenth.

Despite his freedom in the West, to his last days he admitted that having to leave the Soviet Union was an open wound for him. His teachers in Moscow had given him a 'new life' - Tseitlin, Borisovsky, Yampolsky among them. Some reflections animate other thoughts; as a soldier he came across a group of German soldiers in a clearing but edged away; one of them, he says, could have been a future Heine. He played at the funeral services of Stalin and Prokofiev - on the same day. Like some other musicians he could do without an audience; he knows what ideals he wants to realise, and these aren't dependent on a listening audience. It's not a sterile approach, more the view of the wholly focused idealist-executant. He offers advice on conducting, noting that hands must be expressive (this much we know) and not 'angular' - a good word. His relationship with the Communist party was always prickly. Officials pressurised him to join the party - he did not - or to denounce Israel, which he also did not. He reflects on the great musicians he had known, Oistrakh and Richter, his greatest friend, among them. He venerated Goethe, and also Beethoven. The travails of his marriages are touched on without embarrassment.

We hear that it was Maria Yudina who prodded him in the chest and told him to work on his immense completion of Bach's Art of Fugue - a point of view that Shostakovich shared. If he had done anything to justify himself before God, he says, it was his work on Bach and Mahler. We hear about Shostakovich, naturally, since Barshai conducted the world premiere of the Fourteenth Symphony. We don't hear very much about his many years with the Borodin Quartet.

The meaning of the film title, The Note? It's the note he sought to find in the Mahler, an illegible blotted note. 'It's going to be a G flat' he decided, and with that his work on the symphony was transformed. It feels like a moment, for him, of almost mystic revelation. The film ends with some discreet shots of Barshai's funeral.

Invariably there's an autumnal element to this film, sensitively shot, quixotically ordered. Barshai though remains quietly but indomitably himself and far from lamenting his death one feels moved by a life fully lived, candidly remembered and unselfconsciously revealed.

Jonathan Woolf