This disc contains two documentaries. The second is a brief 11 minute resume of the process of making the main feature as seen from the perspective of those involved in the film's production. This film about the making process will inevitably have limited appeal to those who are attracted by the main feature.
The main feature is a thorough documentary lasting for some 99 minutes and constructed in 13 main chapters. A dominant force within the film is the current main conductor Antonio Pappano and the film commences with his views on what makes an orchestra of Italian musicians different from other nationalities. He also gives copious background to his own life as an English born offspring of Italian parentage. His father was a musician with a speciality in vocal music and Pappano was deeply involved with this as an accompanist from a young age and for years thereafter.
The film goes from this to orchestral members who give their own views as to what constitutes the special Italian ingredient within their orchestra. Essentially this starts to focus on varying descriptions of warmth of expression. This is perceived as of a type of emotional response that the players believe is more red-bloodied than that associated with orchestras from more northerly climes or the USA for example. Other key words heard with some frequency are 'passion' and 'energy.' These feelings are reciprocated towards the film where reactions from a German audience are chosen to support this viewpoint.
That same viewpoint is also strongly put forward in the central parts of the film which concentrates on the relationships between the orchestra and a range of conductors and various soloists. These are substantial interviews with conductors Yuri Temirkanov, Valery Gergiev, Giulini and Daniel Harding to reinforce this view plus archive film material with Giulini, Sinopoli, Pretre, Rostropovich, Bernstein and Georges Pretre where the considerable range of communication adopted by the conductors suggests a particularly emotional rapport.
Also mentioned is the Italians' love of playing rather than constantly stopping to apply particular details of interpretation. The suggestion is that it is through the playing that the communication between players and conductors is best achieved. This approach is seen to be in contrast with the preferences of other nationalities. An oft repeated view of the best conductors seen from the players' points of view is that of them having 'charisma' as the most defining element regardless of everything else. In other words their charisma communicates the conductors' wishes best of all and thus inspires the players to give of their best.
The soloists who are featured in a similar way are Janine Jensen, Lisa Batiashvile, Evgeny Kissin, Denis Matsuev, Lang Lang and Stefano Bollani. All of these eminent soloists stress that warmth of empathy in their own relationships with the orchestral members.
There is also a section in the film which explores the effects of touring upon the players and, interestingly, the shared contents of dreams and nightmares. Those last will be familiar to anyone where particular tools and timetables are essential to a job. Turning up late, missing transport connections, loss or damage to vital equipment are all familiar scenarios in relatively similar ways to many occupations.
The central part of the film will be of particular interest to anyone who is interested in the process whereby performances and interpretations are created from the raw materials of the notes. Naturally enough the film concentrates on the notion of warmth however it is encouraged and expressed. Seeing and hearing from such a range of conductors and soloists was fascinating.
The technical aspects of the film were of a good standard with clear wide-screen imaging and good DTS 5.1 sound as well as stereo.
The concept of the film, that the Italian character is essentially that of extra emotional warmth, is rather a thin concept on which to build a whole 99 minute documentary. However, so long as the viewer is responsive to the wider context of conductors, soloists, and mostly rehearsal footage (chosen because that illustrates the character more obviously), then this disc will provide an enjoyable and interesting insight into the distinctive world of professional musicians.