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David Oistrakh: Artist Of The People? [DVD]

Gidon Kremer , Yehudi Menuhin , Bruno Monsaingeon    Exempt   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Gidon Kremer, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Igor Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich
  • Directors: Bruno Monsaingeon
  • Format: Full Screen, PAL
  • Language: English, Russian
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Wmv
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Aug 2002
  • Run Time: 75 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000069D4N
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 166,559 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

From Amazon.co.uk

Bruno Monsaingeon's David Oistrakh: Artist of the People? is a probing portrait of perhaps the most thought-provoking of modern violin virtuosi, and a good companion to his similarly revealing documentary on pianist Sviatoslav Richter. Although conversation with the man himself is minimal (Oistrakh died in 1974), Monsaingeon is able to draw upon the priceless reminiscences of those who worked with him, including his son Igor, conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, protegé Gidon Kremer, and the late Yehudi Menuhin: their frank and sincere comments on Soviet society make for sobering listening. Equally important, the range of Oistrakh's repertoire is covered, from Bach to Shostakovich, in footage covering half a century of performance. The musicianship and humanity of a life dedicated to music in the face of an often ruthless establishment is powerfully and movingly evoked. This is a documentary that no-one interested in great music-making or 20th-century culture should miss.

On the DVD: David Oistrakh: Artist of the People? reproduces its disparate sources with remarkable consistency in a 4:3 picture, and if the high level transfer of the musical extracts gives a harder edge to Oistrakh's sound than was the case, the Linear PCM Stereo itself is fine. There are subtitles in five European languages, and a useful background article by Monsaingeon, similarly translated, in the booklet. --Richard Whitehouse

Product Description

Languages and Audio Content:
Russian and English Linear PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
Black and White and Colour
Pal 4:3
Region Code: 2, 3 ,4 , 5 ,6

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political midget, musical giant. 27 Jun 2003
Format:DVD
Monsaingeon's Oistrakh film is indeed puzzling. Likewise the companion Richter and Fischer-Dieskau "bios", the musical contents of this TV-derived programme presents the viewer with stunning performances (excerpts only, though), both of chamber and of symphonic music, that amply secure Oistrakh's place amongst the really key violinists of the 20th century. Yet more so than in the Richter programme, Monsaingeon also opts for stressing the man's lack of fortitude before the USSR's communist bosses, picturing him as a weak character who hid behind his music-making and looked the other way whilst enjoying the favourable status his condition as "Artist of the People of the USSR" gave him during much of the Stalin reign, one of the darkest periods of European history, and those of his successors, much like what has amply been discussed regarding similar stances in musicians like Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm or Richard Strauss during the nazi regime in Germany, or of other artists who cynically profited from a favoured position in totalitarian states in order to advance in their life (Dalí's flirtations with the Franco regime in Spain comes to mind, as well as Respighi's with the Mussolini Government). Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Throughly worthwhile documentary 6 May 2008
By Hywel James TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:DVD
This documentary offers just sufficient extracts from Oistrakh's playing to encourage one to go to the many audio recordings available so that you can hear just what a wonderful musician he was. The commentaries by Oistrakh's son, Igor, and his friends and fellow musicians, including Menuhin, Rozhdestvensky and Rostropovich, demonstrate that, despite his tacit support for the Soviet regime (which he believed had given him the opportunity to develop his talent) Oistrakh was a deeply sincere and lovable man, and a musician of genius.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars greatest violinist of all times 1 Oct 2009
Format:DVD
David Oistrakh was one the few really great violinists of our time. This film by Bruno Monsaingeon is an excellent musical journey through his life and musical career.Like the other two Monsaingeon films about Richter and Rojdestvensky this film has a widely informative historical background of USSR in Oistrakh's lifetime. .
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Angels on Earth 10 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
I am so glad that I have bought this DVD. It is very obvious that the whole team who produced this biographical work, know their music well and have presented it well.
The most glorious footage can be soon of eg Yehudi Menuhin and Oistrakh playing Bach's Concerto for two violins (D minor), Second Movement. The humility and love and respect between these two virtuosos must be one of those moments that make life worth living. (I keep thinking though, that millions of people must be cursing that person in the audience who coughs during the performance.)
I wish this recording existed on CD.
Another heavenly moment is watching Oistrakh (viola) and his son (violin) playing the Third movement of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (K364), with Yehudi Menuhin conducting. Again this is not available on CD, but a recording of father and son playing together with Kirill Kondrashin conducting does exist. Being a musician must be the most beautiful life to live. But then to play with ones own son must be pure heaven?
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Political midget, musical giant 8 Jun 1999
By Plaza Marcelino - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Monsaingeon's Oistrakh film is indeed puzzling. Likewise the companion Richter tape, the musical contents of this TV-derived programme presents the viewer with stunning performances (excerpts only, though), both of chamber and of symphonic music, that amply secure Oistrakh's place amongst the really key violinists of the century. Yet more so than in the Richter tape, Monsaingeon also opts for stressing the man's lack of fortitude before the USSR's communist bosses, picturing him as a weak character who hid behind his music-making and looked the other way whilst enjoying the favourable status his condition as "Artist of the People of the USSR" gave him during much of the Stalin reign, one of the darkest periods of European history, and those of his successors, much like what has amply been discussed regarding similar stances in musicians like Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm or Richard Strauss during the nazi regime in Germany, or of other artists who cynically profited from a favoured position in totalitarian states in order to advance in their life (Dalí's flirtations with the Franco regime in Spain comes to mind, as well as Respighi's with the Mussolini Government and Karajan's with Hitler's). Oistrakh's lack of political courage, or perhaps his failure to defect to the West as commented by Menuhin in one of the programme's interviews, may well be deservedly criticisable, as well as his meek acceptance of the exploitation of which he was the subject by his government, be it economical (as the lion's share of his income from tours to the West was snatched from him by the Soviet authorities), political (as a sample of the Soviet regime's purported superiority in catering to the spiritual needs of its citizens) or as a propaganda vehicle (as in one of the film's initial sequences, probably one of the corniest ever filmed anywhere, the crème de la crème of soviet string players gather in an early Technicolour-washed strings-only adaptation of one of Rachmaninov's préludes from his Op.23), but I'd say that Monsaingeon's exaggerate concentration on that sad facet of this giant of a musician's personality ultimaltely proves the weak spot of the film. David Oistrakh may have been something of a midget politically speaking, but when he died in an Amsterdam hotel in 1974 the world lost a giant of a musician, and it is precisely his musical legacy what in the end solidly keeps him in a privileged place our memory and not anything else.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Has high moments, wonderful performances 3 July 2001
By scarecrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
In the face of power, the tyranny of a corrupt regime, what is a musician to do when his life is dependent upon it for survival, It is far to facile for Yehudi Menuhin to fault Oistrakh's lack of courage in the face of the Stalinist/Zhadnov Kultura regime, Menuhin sitting comfortably in his posh London flat,what does he know of Oistrakh's struggles,nothing. Yet Menuhin had brokered Oistrakh's appearance in England, a coup that he would have informed the press of the Soviet tyranny had they not allowed him out of Mother Russia. This other installment by Bruce Monsaindeon is not as interesting as the Richter film, there the vintage footage was breathtaking spanning Richter's entire career. Was it the KGB who followed him with a camera?,with such intimate situations,even funerals,tours, and film appearances. Here in the Oistrakh there are also great moments, as now older with jowls and a "grosse bauch" mid section, the ultimate power of his playing, here the excerpt is the Cadenza in the Violin Concerto in A minor, of friend Dmitri Shostakovich. There is also vintage humiliating like performaces from the Thirties Oistrakh playing in one of these Russian Stalinist Odes to the Leader,with many Harps and Flowers, the spectacle of the Dialectic. But Oistrakh's powerful interpretations, the massive sound,conviction he summoned from this tiny box with strings running on its top is/was astonishing. There's also a touching tribute by Rostropovich where Oistrakh was compelled to renounce him(ficticiously Purge Trial mentality-like), for the apparent defection, a luxury not all Soviet artists managed during their careers. Gidon Kremer reflects surprisingly perceptively on Oistrakh's meaning to violinists of his generation as well as Igor, Oistrakh's musician son.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars * * * 1/2 Monsaingeon rambles, but Oistrakh is fascinating nonetheless 1 Nov 2006
By The Man in the Hathaway Shirt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This documentary highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of Bruno Monsaingeon. The filmmmaker has the ability to find some amazingly rare archival footage of his subjects--I think for his Richter documentary he tracked down every frame available of the pianist. But his storytelling is often undisciplined and wanders. While this work isn't nearly as sprawling as his epic Richter bio, it still tends to be a bit out of focus, in my opinion. Rather than really talk much about Oistrakh as an artist--his technique, interpretations, ideas, etc.,--it instead spends most of its time dealing with how difficult it was for a Soviet artist to thrive in an oppressive regime. It's interesting material, but I couldn't help feeling that the same exact story could have been told about Rostropovich, Richter, Mravinsky, Kagan, Temirkanov, Gutman, etc. A better title for this DVD might have been "It's Tough To Be An Artist in the USSR."

That isn't to say it's a bad film or you shouldn't watch it. It just felt undisciplined and a little wide of the mark. There's an early bit where two neighbors where Oistrakh used to live argue over who bought him his country house. It's interesting, but Monsaingeon never contextualizes it--it's just presented as two people arguing. This is just one example of how the film, and most of M's films, can often feel like merely a hodge-podge of clips and interviews strung together, interesting in themselves but ultimately not organized into a larger whole by the filmmaker.

In short, why is Oistrakh special? Why do we care about him so much? The film never addresses that.

The interviews are fascinating, however. Now that the iron curtain has been lifted we have a clearer view than before of what former Soviet artists had to go through--a subject that seems to interest Monsaingeon. Rosdestvensky relates how when Oistrakh died, he was abroad but was prevented from staying and conducting memorial concerts for his comrade because his arbitrary 90-day period he could be out of the country was up. You can see he still feels pain and anger over this act.

If you live in North America, this disc, unfortunately, will only work if you have a region-free DVD player. (If you're not sure if you have a region-free DVD player, you almost certainly don't.) And don't even think about playing it in your computer, unless you have the proper hack. (Again, if you're not sure, you don't have it, and even if it plays it will then "lock" your machine onto the new region and you will be unable to play North America DVDs after that. It will not warn you about this; it will just do it.) For some reason most of Monsaingeon's work is not available on region 1 DVD. That's a shame. Overall I recommend this, if you have the right equipment to view it. If not, you may want to search out a VHS version.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare Insights into Conflicted Musical Genius Surviving Under Totalitariansim 17 Aug 2011
By customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
It's difficult for many, especially Americans, to comprehend the treachery of survival under totalitarianism. A sensitive and gifted artist like Oistrakh, already branded with strikes against him under Stalin's antisemitic regime, had to make careful decisions regarding the protection of his family and his art.

It's easy to judge him from the safety of one's living room, even in today's threatened climate of democracy. Oistrakh was ruthlessly exploited by the state as an instrument of propaganda, surviving Stalin's Terror which took the lives of countless people. His playing remained magnificent to the end, in spite of the dangers surrounding him. He was virtually worked to death by the very state that acknowledged and nurtured his youthful gifts.

Born into a Jewish family in Odessa, Oistrakh had the typically deep cultural roots and family loyalties found in Jewish husbands and fathers. He slaved away to protect his beloved family, and remained silent so that his violin could be heard, as is declared in this documentary. He is clearly not judged by his colleagues whose interviews appear here (other than some snide implications from Menuhin), but is respected and adored as a lovely man and brilliant artist.

We have to try to hear truth through Menuhin's arrogant judgments about Oistrakh's political survival. Menuhin's hubris is embarrassing to witness, and may be colored by jealousy over Oistrakh's superior gifts. Early in life Menuhin lost the fire and technical abilities that brought him fame at a young age, coasting for many decades on his early achievements and success. While Menuhin worked hard and admirably on behalf of other artists, it's difficult to not hear his envy, disguised in patronizing language, concerning Oistrakh.

There is precious little available on Oistrakh. This documentary is valuable for this reason.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Misses the point somewhat, but important for Oistrakh completists 28 Jun 2006
By Nabih B. Bulos - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
The question I always want to ask Bruno Monsaingeon is: Where in God's name does he get all this fantastic footage from? Whether it is the clip of Gitlis play Paganini's "La Campanella" in "Art of the Violin", or the clip of Vaclav Hudecek playing Tchaikovsky's VC in this offering, they are just simply fantastic. But I am digressing here...

What we have here is yet another interesting documentary by Mr. Monsaingeon, but as many other reviewers have said it somewhat misses the point. Is it really the job of artists to be politicians, at the risk of silencing their artistic voice? An artist holds allegiance to one thing above all: his/her artistry. It just so happens that Oistrakh WAS a tool of Soviet propaganda, whether in his performances or his teaching, and yes he was constantly being exploited, but he acted as honorably as he could in the face of overwhelmingly bad circumstances. Just listen to what Menuhin says of Oistrakh's reponse to the question of defection. That alone answers questions about the man's integrity.

But a review must tackle the "meat and potatoes" question: Is this a good documentary? In a word, yes. Whether or not the question about Oistrakh's character should have been asked in the first place is another matter for another day, but one cannot deny that this is a well-researched, slickly produced documentary featuring some of the hardest to find footage of Oistrakh. Alongside Paul Cohen's superlative "The Winners", it ranks as one of my favorite musical documentaries.
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