Bruno Monsaingeon's two films, "Red Button" and "Gennady Rozhdestvensky: Conductor or Conjurer?" are contained on this DVD.
"Red Button" is built around two extensive interviews with two of the prominent Russian conductors of the past half century, Gennady Rozhdestvensky and Rudolph Barshai. It features ongoing interviews with these men about their experiences during the postwar years of artistic repression in the SU. It contains numerous personal accounts and personal revelations that will at times even surprise the viewer who will already be familiar with the abhorrent events of the Zhdanov era and its aftermath. But here it is, recounted by the luminaries who actually were there to suffer its consequences.
The film includes fascinating file footage of Dmitri Shostakovich reading prepared texts at one of the public pony shows, and later, all too briefly, a shot of him in animated conversation with Rozhdesetvensky at a rehearsal of one of his works. We also see a youngish Tikhon Khrennikov delivering an address in his impassioned style, singing the praises of Stalin's draconian policies on the arts. We later see him accompanying himself on the piano to one of his folksy songs ("Alioka"?); and we also see a snip of the elder Khrennikov proclaiming that his intentions during his leadership years were ultimately for the protection of his fellow composers. This is followed by contradictory remarks by Rozhdestvensky, including a recounting of Khrennikov's wiley attempts at preventing Alfred Schnittke's First Symphony from receiving a performance.
The second film portrays Rozhdestvensky as a highly charismatic fellow, full of humor as well as a rich and articulate store of musical insight. It is particularly revealing in showing his podium style, both in informal and formal settings. We eavesdrop on a master class in which he offers advice and commentary to a handful of young conducting students. One of the extras on the DVD features a performance in front of an audience of Rozhdestvensky's own arrangement of a suite based on Schnittke's "Dead Souls" movie score. The hilarious theatrics that take place between Rozhdestvensky and Viktoria Postnikova, both in between and during serious music making, are worthy of the name Victor Borge and are unforgettable.
Fascinating DVD. Wish I had access to a DVD that contained *only* file footage of what was seen in all
to brief passing on this production -- Shostakovich in rehearsal, Prokofiev speaking and performing at the
piano, and not least, B&W footage of a riveting performance of one of Prokofiev's piano concerti with
a very young and totally brilliant Viktoria Postnikova and Mr Rozhdestvensky.