by Palle Yourgrau
Where does this strange notion of non-punishable crimes come from? … Isn’t it high time it were proclaimed that every discernible crime is a punishable one …? —Simone Weil, The Need for Roots
When the finger points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger. —Confucius
What Happened at Vergier
At the 10th anniversary of the Vergier Festival and Academy in 1994, in Switzerland, there was an extraordinary performance of Bach’s Concerto for Four Claviers (based on a Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins), an electrifying piece of Baroque rock n’ roll performed by an insanely gifted group of musicians that included the Russian Evgeny Kissin, who rocked the house, eclipsing even the legendary Martha Argerich. Luckily for us, the performance was captured on film, now available on dvd. Unluckily, the cinematographer or director was, as usual, a criminal. What passes for a representation of four pianists playing Bach is in fact, for much of the time, a gallery of four faces of four pianists playing Bach, though fortunately for us, the faces are noble ones, especially the Beethovenian countenance of Argerich-in-winter counterpointed by the seraphic visage of the ever-child-like-Kissin. Still, every now and then, thanks to a merciful God, actual piano playing emerges on screen as a kind of afterthought, including even passages that musically deserve to be center stage.
Now, what happened in Vergier in 1994 is by no means an anomaly. It is as common as sand on a beach. It is, sadly, the norm when cinematographers and directors set out to capture a cultural event or an historic or otherwise important performance in music or ballet, or other artistic venues like figure skating. There is, to cite another example, a dvd containing performances by four pianists, including Joanna MacGregor and Angela Hewitt, of Bach’s complete Well-Tempered Clavier, where the cinematographer/director puts to shame the crimes committed at Vergier. Read more »