Some people I know don't like to watch concerts on film, because they find the closeups on instruments being played too artificial. Still, filmed concerts are some of the best documents in the history of conducting. With that in mind, I was intrigued to read an article (L'Orchestre national et ses chefs, January 25) by Christian Merlin in Le Figaro, about a series of concert films (Musique filmée):
The cycle of filmed music organized by Christian Labrande in the Louvre Auditorium is one of the most anticipated events for music-lovers poking through archives. Labrande is without equal in unearthing unseen documents, focusing on artists whose names only have to be mentioned to make us salivate. His next series, 13 viewings from January 27 to February 7, will be dedicated to the Orchestre National de France and its conductors. If this orchestra was founded in 1934, it was only at the end of 1950s that its concerts began to be filmed: the screenings will not retrace all of its history, but that's still 50 years of music to be brought to life, from black and white to color.Present conductor Kurt Masur is represented in the series by his début appearance with the orchestra, in 1974, and Leonard Bernstein is shown conducting works by Ravel, including vocal music with Marilyn Horne plus the G major piano concerto, in which Bernstein plays the solo part. The schedule of films for the Portrait de l'Orchestre National de France is available from the Louvre's Web site. Marie-Aude Roux, in another article (L'Orchestre national de France, 70 ans de concerts en treize films, January 28) for Le Monde, says the following about that Bernstein concert:
You can observe both what has remained constant and what has evolved with this virtuosic group, capable of ignoring everything if it was bored or of electrifying the audience if a conductor made it want to do it. You can also see how much there still was, forty years ago, an immediately recognizable French sound, clear, nasal, strongly individualized, and how the internationalization of the repertoire has obliged the ONF to broaden its palette to play German music a German sound.
"It was true love: we would have cut ourselves to pieces for him!" they say today, those from the Orchestre National de France who played under Leonard Bernstein. If you have never heard the joy of an orchestra in a state of grace and seen a conductor commune with his musicians, you should run to the Louvre Auditorium to watch the archived concerts of the American conductor.That viewing took place on Friday, January 28.