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Violoncelle [(2 DVD+CD)]
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This amazing set gathers together the 3 collaborations between film director Chantal Akerman and cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton. As an interpreter of an extremely broad repertory that reflects her imaginative world, a designer of projects, and a musician sought after by many contemporary composers, Sonia Wieder-Atherton occupies a place apart on today s musical scene. She has played as soloist with the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre National de France, the Belgian National Orchestra, the Liege Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Lisbon Gul-benkian Orchestra, the Luxemburg Philharmonic, the Hanover NDR Orchestra . . . Pascal Dusapin, George Aperghis and others have written numerous works for her. She has been invited by many festivals to perform the musical projects that she conceives and stages, in venues such as the Cité de la Musique, the Théâtre de la Ville, the Strasbourg Musica, the Bath Music Festival, Cheltenham, Houston Opera and Dortmund Opera. She has recently signed an exclusive contract with the record company Naïve. [Jewish prayer, MONTEVERDI Duo Seraphim, Ritornello, BERIO Les mots sont allés, JANACEK Presto, BRAHMS Sonata in E minor, SCHUBERT Litanei Imogen Cooper [piano], Sarah Iancu, Matthieu Lejeune [cellos] A l Est avec Sonia Wieder-Atherton RACHMANINOV Vespers, DOHNANYI Ruralia hungarica, Song in the remembrance of Schubert, TCHEREPNIN Tatar Dance, KRAWCZYK Folksongs, Jeux d enfants after Janacek s Moravian folksongs KODALY Magyar Rondo, PROKOFIEV The Field of the Dead, MARTINU Variations on a Slovak Folksong, MAHLER Rückert-Lieder Cyril Dupuy [cembalom], Sinfonia Varsovia / Christophe Mangou]
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most interesting film-makers on 2 DVDs, plus a CD of Wieder-Atherton's work on the soundtrack to Akerman's film
"A Couch in New York".
On the first DVD is "Avec Sonia Wieder-Atherton" 41 minutes. Its a wonderful combination of beautiful music beautifully played
and Chantal Akerman's inventive, but not intrusive filming of the wildly talented cellist. The film starts with Wieder-Atherton
telling the story of how she came to fall in love; first with music in general, and then with the cello, and
goes on to talk about how she found her specific style, which uses the music to try and almost form words of communication.
It's a delightful and enlightening interview. This is followed by Wieder-Atherton playing 6 pieces of quite different styles, from
the heartbreaking melodies of Brahms and Schubert to Berio's more edgy modern sounds. Akerman sometimes photographs
Wieder-Atherton and her fellow musicians through foreground objects, slowly dollying the camera to reveal different perspectives
on the players. Akerman also uses a nice mix of close ups and wider shots, which is important, since Wieder-Atherton is the
kind of musician who plays with her whole body, her body language as expressive as her face. Captivating and moving.
Also on that first DVD is "Trios Strophes sur le Nom de Sacher" (1989) 12 Minutes. This is the first of Chantal Akerman's wonderful
collaborations with Sonia Wieder- Atherton. This short film of Wieder-Atherton playing the title piece by Henri Dutilleux is simply,
but very well shot. Akerman does a great job of capturing Wieder-Atherton's expressive playing, not just in close-ups, but in wider
shots that let us watch the musician's body as she interacts with the music and her instrument. While not overly flamboyant,
the passion that Wieder-Atherton brings to her playing is exciting to watch, and brings a deeper level of connection to the music - or
at least it did to me. I personally didn't find this music quite as involving as the music in the other two films, but its was still worthwhile.
The 2nd DVD is taken up with "A l'Est avec Sonia Wieder-Atherton" (2009) Presented in 2 parts, this 83 minute piece documents
Wieder-Atherton's idea to do a set of pieces from across central and eastern Europe, including Russia. Some weren't originally
written for cello, but she had them transcribed. Some were songs for voices, which relates to Wieder-Atherton saying in "Avec Sonia
Wieder-Atherton" that she wants to play the cello in a way that it would carry the emotion of the human voice. She explains at the
beginning of this new film how she feels each country in central and eastern Europe has it's own personality expressed in its music,
coming from out of its individual history and culture, but that each land in the area is also `impregnated' as she puts it by the others,
so there are certain elements that run throughout. All the pieces are lovely, and some are truly exciting and/or moving. Akerman
photographs it all simply but interestingly. A combination of lighting and camera angles keeps our focus on Wieder-Atherton
while giving us slightly shadowy glimpses of the musicians playing with her. Indeed, my only two (very minor) carps were that
during some pieces (not all) I felt other key musical voices weren't shown (in one piece there's sort of a `call and response' between
Wieder-Atheron and another cellist, but we never see her `partner'). I also personally wish the overview might have included some
of the interesting more modern eastern European musical voices like Arvo Part and Henryk Gorecki. But these are very minor quibbles,
and the second part is just a question of personal taste. This is a highly entertaining and involving hour and a half of music that does
indeed tie together a huge geographical region of musical creativity.
Throughout the films the sound quality seemed quite high through my decent system.
Finally, the CD presents the score of "A Couch in New York, often tied to bits of dialogue, and also what sounds like Chantal Akerman's
occasional comments. The score has a jaunty feel for the most part, ranging from Bach to Cole Porter. On first exposure I found just listening
to the score less involving than watching Wieder-Atherton playing, but it still was a lovely 'extra'.
All in all a terrific package that I'll return to often.