FRANCE 5 – FRIDAY JUNE 9 AT 10.50 P.M. – DOCUMENTARY
Since 1971, Bruno Monsaingeon (who will turn 80 on December 5) has been filming music and musicians – first for television (ORTF, TF1, Antenne 2), then independently. He will have crossed the path of glories in the evening of their lives (the mythical Nadia Boulanger, in 1977, who was the most illustrious teacher of her century), followed the last third of the career of the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, listened to the great baritone Dietrich Fischer -Dieskau or the pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
But posterity will first associate him with the figure of the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, with whom he made numerous films and whose writings he translated and published in France. However, Monsaingeon will also, on occasion, be interested in young musicians (but not young musicians), with outbursts sometimes marked by a flagrant lack of distance, even a certain complacency with the subject filmed.
We find, in the new film that the director devotes to the young Quatuor Arod, too much insistence on filming the first violin, on showing him as a gifted child, playing or on vacation, according to family archives. Before the cellist – the “geek” of the four – takes the floor, it almost looks like a portrait of the founding violinist of the ensemble.
One of the best of his generation
One could have imagined the comparison with other young formations of quartettists – they abound in France –, or with a venerable formation. But Monsaingeon was not mistaken in choosing the Arod Quartet, one of the best of its generation. And he made a type of film the likes of which are hardly made any more, which are deeply interested in music.
Are treated the thorny subject of the agreement (it is crucial for what is akin to a household of four: certain famous quartetists ended up no longer speaking to each other and sleeping in separate hotels) and that of the balance between work together and preservation of personal and family life.
We see the musicians meditating, lying in a cloverleaf, united by the skull (they have hired a “mental coach”), expressing themselves frankly but with tact, etc. We especially observe them working on accuracy by playing Bach chorales. In search of pure intervals, which contribute to what the Anglo-Saxons call the“just intonation”they even came, at the instigation of the cellist, to equip themselves with individual electronic tuners which indicate the correct frequency of the sounds.
The strongest moment of the film is the meeting with the Hungarian composer György Kurtag, to whom they play his Microludes (1977-1978): the work lasts some nine minutes in all, but Kurtag will make them work two and a half hours on the first eight bars… The composer (95 years old at the time of filming) is at the keyboard of an upright piano, muted, and gives the examples with a touch of rare musicality (as evidenced by the recordings made recently with his wife).
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Funny moment: Kurtag decides to correct his work by changing a note on the musicians’ score. He seems delighted, like André Derain, at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, going up on stage one day, brush in hand, to modify a detail of his decor and exclaiming: “Dédé is always right! »
The Arod Quartet: household for four, documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon (Fr., 2022, 52 min).