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Tony Palmer's Classic Film: Warren Mitchell as Brahms and the Singing Girls

 
Tony Palmer's Classic Film: Warren Mitchell as Brahms and the Singing Girls-Biography Movie
ID: TPDVD117 (EAN: 604388703609)  | 1 DVD
Released in: 2009
LABEL:
Tony Palmer
Subcollection:
Biography Movie
Composers:
BRAHMS, Johannes
Interprets:
MITCHELL, Warren | PIITZ, Lori
Ensembles:
NDR Symphony Orchestra and Choir
Conductors:
LEONARD, Peter | PALMER, Tony
Other info:

Source: TONY PALMER FILMS
Region Code: NTSC, Plays in all territories
Screen (Picture) Format: 16:9
Color mode: Colour
Digital re-mastering: Isolde Films 2009
Presentation: Wide Screen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
Language: English
Duration: 90 mins

Starring:
Warren Mitchell as Johannes Brahms
Lori Piitz as Clara

Directed:
Tony Palmer

Music conducted:
Peter Leonard with NDR Symphony Orchestra and Choir

90 minute film directed by the acclaimed, award-winning director Tony Palmer and starring Warren Mitchell.

Brahms’ first musical experience had been playing an upright piano in the brothels of Hamburg; at the end he lived a bachelor in Vienna

I had long admired Warren Mitchell as an actor. In spite of being crippled to some extent by his most famous creation, Alf Garnett in 'Til Death Us Do Part, brilliant though he was, one always felt instinctively there was an extraordinary actor struggling to get out. And sure enough, when I saw him as Willy Loman in Miller's Death of a Salesman at the National Theatre, I knew (as did everyone else who was lucky enough to see him) that I was in the presence of greatness.

He threw himself into the part of Brahms will enormous gusto. He recognised that this was to be no ‘ordinary' composer portrait, and when the shit hit the fan as the English critics initially rubbished the film, he was its most vigorous advocate, for which I have always been grateful. What had offended more-or-less everyone was the film's affirmation that the familiar image of the stodgy old Brahms was a million miles from the truth. His first musical experience had been playing an upright piano in the brothels of Hamburg where he had grown up, and at the end of his life (in fact for the last 15 years) he had lived a bachelor in Vienna having his every need satisfied by the prostitutes of the city whom he always affectionately described as his ‘little singing girls'. None of this was thought either factually correct or (worse) relevant to his music - which of course is nonsense.

"Palmer at his most ridiculous",was one of the kinder reviews. Of course, the musical establishment was outraged. The Head of Music at the BBC (which of course refused to show the film) was heard to say "the film was disgusting."

Indeed it is, and I am glad it is so because it helped explode the myth of ‘stodgy old (bearded) Brahms' as perpetuated by dreary films such as Song of Love with Robert Walker, or Spring Symphony with Nastassja Kinski, or all those turgid, mawkish documentaries about the supposed ‘love affair' between Clara Schumann and Brahms. I've counted three made by the BBC alone. In spite of some success around the world, this film has still never been shown in Britain.

And, surprise surprise, some years after the film was finished, a new biography of Brahms by Jan Swafford, the American composer and musicologist at Boston Conservatory, was published ‘proving' (if that is the word) that everything I had ventured about Brahms' life turned out to be essentially true.

But this film is not about scoring points; rather it is a celebration of unabashed, life-enhancing, sexually explosive music. Warren Mitchell, who was more-or-less the same age as the Brahms he portrays in the film, rose to the challenge with fire in his belly. He loved all the naked girls, and who would not? Brahms did, and that's what made him the great composer he is.
TONY PALMER
Program
 
BRAHMS, Johannes (1833-1897) 
1. The Beach - "As if the Light Were Ebbing Out of the World" Intermezzo In C Sharp Minor, Op 1173:20 
2. The Tragic Overture: The Brothel & Hamburg3:30 
3. Hungarian Dance No 5: The Whore Piano Quertet No 1 Arr Schönberg5:19 
4. "My Career Began Badly....." Piano Concerto No 14:15 
5. Clara's Children Double Concerto For Violin & 'Cello4:58 
6. Christmas the Cradle Song3:04 
7. "I Hope It Chokes the Bastards Dead" Symphony No 12:24 
8. "The Pitiless Gods" Horn Trio, Op 40 Symphony No 15:22 
9. "You Alone Walk This Way...." "Denn Es Gehert" Sextet No 16:46 
10. "All Loving Dies" Nänie Symphony No 46:12 
11. "I Was Impotent...." Violin Concerto Intermezzo In E Flat Minor Hungarian Dance No 115:38 
12. "My Bridal Song...." The Alto Rhapsody4:21 
13. "I Had Always Longed to Be Respectable..." Hungarian Dance No 18 St Anthony Variations3:16 
14. "Love Like Winter Froze...."Es Hing Der Reif" Piano Trio In C Minor7:14 
15. The Café Kremser "Hello, My Baby" Hungarian Dance No 34:51 
16. "What Heaven Was There...." Violin Concerto "Warum Ist Das Licht Gegeben?" Symphony No 17:25 
17. The Death of Clara: "All Flesh is as Grass" Ein Deutsches Requiem4:32 
18. "My Little Singing Girls" Academic Festival Overture3:56 
19. End Credits Intermezzo In E Flat Major, Op 1192:01 

Review:
 

“Deconstructing the myth and reconstructing a giant. A brilliant re-evaluation of Brahms, told in a breathtaking series of stunning images of aching tenderness.” Chicago Tribune


 

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