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4.2 out of 5 stars
In Search Of Beethoven [DVD] [2009]
Format: DVD|Change
Price:£16.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 20 November 2016
This starts off as a biography and then descends into a bunch of interviews with just gushing praise from some musicians and historians, many are of poor quality.
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on 9 November 2009
This film has been getting very good reviews.

I don't understand why. It's not bad, but hardly amazing.
On the upside, it has some interesting comments from a few people like Emmanuel Ax and Paul Lewis, among a few others. However, much of it is slow and not particularly in-depth.

Obviously making a great doco about Beethoven is a tall order; a very difficult thing to do in approx 2 hours. But those hoping for some Herzog-style world-beater are going to be bitterly disappointed. This film has many bad tv-doco clichés like the letters of Beethoven being read out by an actor with a horridly affected theatre-accent (there's always ten of these guys in BBC mini-series based on 19th century novels), the words "profound" and "deep" must be mentioned fifty times by assorted artists and experts, much of the film skips along with broad descriptions of Beethoven's plight peppered with a few anecdotes, but nothing terribly revealing or insightful. Particularly weird is the way the film ends with Jonathan Del Mar making a perplexed negative judgment about the 9th's final few minutes, which is then followed immediately by some chap explaining that this musical epilogue is the prosaic come-down signifying the yet to be achieved status of human unity. One obviously feels pretty ambivalent after this.

Also, many of the commentators are what one might call "second-tier"; apart from Riccardo Chailly and Paul Lewis, there aren't a lot of stars in the film. The worst part is that Frans Brüggen and his Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are selected for several underwhelming performances of the symphonies. The performance of the 9th looks and sounds like something from a Terry Gilliam period-comedy that never got made.
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on 23 September 2009
Congratulations to Phil Grabsky and all those involved in putting together this excellent 2-disc DVD set. I first saw the more than 2-hour documentary at a cinema and was enthralled. Since then I have been waiting with great anticipation for the release of the DVD. Now that it's here I'm not disappointed. Doing justice to such a complex and fascinating genius as Beethoven is no easy task, but this documentary achieves it admirably. We are left feeling that, despite a few forgivable foibles, Beethoven was truly a wonderful human being whose legacy is an unrivaled body of music that spans the spectrum of emotions. For me the most memorable part in the film, where music, musician and film-maker work sublimely is around the 88th minute. Hélène Grimaud is playing the slow movement of the 5th Piano Concerto. It brought tears to my eyes. On Disc 2 there are interesting and useful extras, including an interview with Phil Grabsky and full movements of works shown in part during the main feature. As a result of seeing the documentary I'm sure you will be inspired to listen again to your old Beethoven CDs (or vinyl), or to buy some new ones. Cheers, Richard.
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on 22 August 2009
Saw this in a mini cinema. I was enthralled for the entire film, which i believe is almost 2 hours long. The film portrays Beethoven's character very well with a fitting mix of tragic, comic, outrageous and inspiring scenes. Contempary sources such as letters to and from Beethoven are coupled with interviews with modern day top-level conducters and performers to give a well rounded look at this extraordinary man from many perspectives. And of course, the best thing of all is that throughout there are many snippets of Beethoven's music, and in my book thats a good enough reason in itself to watch a film.

Highly recommended.
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on 15 September 2015
I watched this last night at a local cinema specialising in the arts. I am a fan of Beethoven's music and so know a little of his life, as would have been the case for many of my fellow film watchers last night. The first 30 minutes was excellently presented but somewhere after that and before a hour 15 minutes had past, I lost interest. The film became very repetitive, with some of the sound bites and comments being repeated word-for-word (maybe they thought after 2 hours you would have forgotten what was said by someone after 30 minutes). The close-ups on the big screen were a bit much, of the musicians with no makeup on, and untrimmed nose hair. Sometimes the shots were of the conductor's coat back or the manicured fingers of the pianist. Many comments made in the film, were without authority or substance, I thought. Maybe going deaf allows the mind to be freed of musical constraints, but did Beethoven ever say that? We can all have our opinions but I was hoping for more than just the thoughts of the musicians appearing in the film.
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on 29 May 2012
This documentary started with Beethoven's music, and ended on the same topic. Many great performances by great artists are included. A short two-hour time-travel of a great composers life is a bit of a rush, but it is a great introductory material to the great composer. Not much is said about his personal life - only one word description of his father ("stern"), minimal is said of his supposedly one-sided failed romances, and the court cases he embroiled himself with fighting over the control of his nephew Carl from his mother after the death of Beethoven's brother. The Beethoven's letter hinted on the dark personal side of the great composer. Magnificently, his despair/anger/compulsion transforms into many beautiful pieces of music in various emotions - who can describe a storm in music (Pastoral Symphony) so well?

It would have been more satisfying if this documentary were at least twice as long, one more disc perhaps. The director said that they have to trim the sixteen-hour material down to two. However, for two discs (the second bonus disc includes a few full movement performances) and the price, it earns five stars from me.
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on 11 July 2009
I saw, over 2 days, both In Search of Mozart & this DVD, In Search of Beethoven. Both are excellent productions, and of the two I think this is perhaps the best, because it is a pretty balanced look at a very difficult - and in many ways a very unfortunate - man, and offers a very decent sample of his music placed in the context of his life.
I haven't see the "extras" DVD, but since I've heard Phil Grabsky talk about the difficulties of producing things like this, including spending 6 months editing down from umpteen hours to less than 2, I think they would be pretty interesting too.
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on 15 November 2016
Very disappointed.I can't remember seeing a documentary where so much was shown in close up shots. Close ups of fingers on keyboards, violins etc. It was all very claustrophobic. There was a scene in one of Beethoven's rooms - all we saw in the room was a close up of a talking head and a piano. The voice over spoke of how Beethoven liked to look out the window at the view....did we get to see out the window? Of course we didn't. This was typical of most of the rest of the documentary. Honestly, this could have been transmitted on the radio and I don't think much would have been lost, Seeing all the 5 star reviews, i'm obviously in the minority here!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 September 2010
In my review of the same director's "In Search of Mozart", I said I looked forward to reviewing a documentary that focussed on a true genius, someone like Beethoven. Well here we are! Alas it follows the same format of the Mozart DVD, although with some subtle and commendable differences.

We still have the same form of extended narrative of the composer's life; the same form of musical extracts; the same hagiography by the same large number of talking heads (only twenty-eight this time, instead of the forty for Mozart). But at least those talking heads seem to have been directed to talk direct to camera rather than to the director.

Eight of those talking heads are pianists, and - rightly or wrongly - there is a definite leaning in the narrative towards Beethoven as a pianist rather than towards his composition in other formats. But then, as a pianist is how the composer viewed himself in his early life. However, what this means is that we have all five piano concertos covered in the film but not, for example, his Egmont Overture. Fortunately, though, we have more examples of pianists, cellists, conductors talking us THROUGH the music rather than just talking ABOUT it.

Good use is made of coloured engravings of contemporary Vienna, which is an improvement on the Mozart disc, but still there is no interest by the director in following the composer around the city or out to Baden or in delving too deeply into his custody battle over his nephew. No, the search here is for the musical man, not the man himself. There was one moment, though, when we were told all about Beethoven's argumentativeness. Amusingly, this was said as we see Riccardo Chailly's becoming more frustrated as the orchestra fails to provide him with the sound he wants.

There is an hour of useful extras. Firstly, a fifteen minute piece with the director talking to camera from some bland hotel room in which he says how he preferred to "tell it straight" rather than be more imaginative. Then there is a nine-minute feature from the editing room, where the director explains how they brought the first cut down from eleven hours to just over two. In addition, there are eleven deleted scenes which total almost half-an-hour. Some of these are very interesting, such as Peter Manning on the late quartets, and Roger Norrington on the metronome. The extras end with complete movements from six works.

So, a definite improvement on the Mozart disc: four stars instead of three, but in its present format the whole film is simply too much for one sitting. It needs either to be broken down into contained episodes focussing on particular compositions or periods of his life, or the whole enterprise needs a more imaginative approach. Still, at least we should be grateful that a modern filmmaker is interested in the greats. Now how about "In Search of Mahler"?
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on 13 December 2012
i chose this because i am a beethoven lover and it didn't disappoint a must for any beethoven "nut"" recommended
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