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Through The Eyes of Yuja
A road movie by Ana´s & Olivier Spiro [47 mins]
Filmed 2014 Bonus Concert Performances George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue [17.49] Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto in G major [20.04]
Yuja Wang (piano)
Camerata Salzburg/Lionel Bringuier
rec. Haus fŘr Mozart, Salzburg, Austria, 12 August 2016 (performances)
Sound Format PCM stereo (documentary), PCM stereo/DTS 5.1 (concert); Picture Format 16:9 NTSC; Region 0: Subtitles in English, German, French, Korean and Japanese
Reviewed in stereo C MAJOR 745408 DVD [89 mins]
Dave Billinge has already reviewed the Blu-ray version of this release, and my thoughts about the respective merits of the documentary and the two concert performances are basically in accord with his. To fulfil my responsibility to write 300 words, having requested this for review, I will try to add some extra perspectives. I asked for this, not as an a fan of Yuja Wang, having not heard any of her recordings, but rather to watch the documentary, a genre which has become a major part of my movie-going life of recent.
The documentary, which is the main point of the release, is interesting for the general viewer as it shows the lonely, insular life of a concert soloist, travelling from one city and continent to another, always inside “rooms”, be they hotels, dressing rooms, concert halls or aeroplanes. At one point she talks of the contradiction of the need for the musician to be by themself whilst at the same time needing to have people around (the audience). For the Yuja devotee, there is the obvious extra attraction of hearing her thoughts and seeing her relaxing, or at least as close as to relaxed as she showed on camera; there are numerous shots of her sitting somewhere other than at a piano, playing “air piano” on her thighs. In the modern documentary style, there is no voiceover narration; the only voices heard are Yuja’s and those she interacts with, including Gustavo Dudamel and Gauthier Capušon. The sequences of her away from the concert hall are interspersed with good length performance extracts (not from the Salzburg concert footage), and in a way this structure is the story of her life: perform, travel, practise, perform etc. The performance extracts were frustrating in that the music was not identified anywhere: I had to answer my wife’s repeated question “what’s this music” with repeated “don’t know” responses. Yuja’s childhood and development is briefly touched upon, and includes some footage of her, aged under ten, in a very ornate white dress playing with an orchestra. Here and elsewhere, we are very much on the outside getting a small view of her world.
The two Salzburg Festival concert performances are described on the packaging as a “bonus”: they are really that in duration more than quality. The Gershwin is very awkward and while Yuja is virtuosic in the Ravel, I was underwhelmed by the Salzburg Camerata who seemed totally out of their comfort zone with this very jazzy music.
The cinematography in the documentary is exceptionally good, that of the concerts perfectly acceptable, though the long telephoto closeups from side-on of her at the keyboard create a perspective distortion which is slightly disconcerting at first. The sound is also very good.
It is not an outstanding documentary, but far more than just publicity for the performer, and I would have liked it to go for another half an hour or so. Just as I began to learn something, it moved on: again much like her life, I guess.