A season of composer films by Christopher Nupen starts on BBC Four this Friday (January 15) and runs for eight weeks at 7.30pm on Friday evenings (and on the BBC iPlayer for a week after original transmission).
Nupen, the doyen of music documentary and film makers, focuses on six composers over his eight films, using performance footage and specially shot images over which he focuses on certain elements of each composer. The first film, “Bizet’s Carmen”, focuses on the opera for which the composer is known but which was a disaster at its premiere (just weeks before Bizet’s premature death) yet within a few years had become possibly the world’s most popular opera. The film features footage shot at the rehearsal in Hamburg of the opera directed by Regina Resnik.
Two films centre on the music of Jean Sibelius (“The Early Years”, January 22 and “Maturity and Silence”, January 29) and features one of Nupen’s most loyal musical collaborators, Vladimir Ashkenazy conducting, among other things, the late and great Tapiola.
Nupen is a great believer in not patronising his audience and this approach goes so far as in not providing subtitles over songs, but rather by presenting’s the song’s text before the performance; something done to powerful effect in “Ottorino Respighi: A Dream of Italy” (February 5). Gidon Kremer and John Williams feature in Nupen’s film about Niccolò Paganini (“Paganini’s Daemon”, February 12), one of classical music's most hard-working and charismatic musicians.
Two films focus on Tchaikovsky. “Tchaikovsky’s Women” (February 19), explores, among other relationships, his profoundly important friendship with his benefactress Nadezhda von Meck and uses some wonderful photographs of Tchaikovsky. While “Fate” (February 26) considers Tchaikovsky’s obsession with this unstoppable force that tears through so much of his later music. And the season ends with a film on Schubert (“The Greatest Love and the Greatest Sorrow”), and makes powerful use of a dream that the composer had and wrote down in full.
These eight films form part of BBC Four's commitment to arts coverage, an increasingly impressive offering; the station is one of the BBC's digital services.
(Photograph - Tchaikovsky, as depicted in a Nupen film. Credit: Allegro Films)