Docurama // 2008 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // November 24th, 2010
"Aim high, and consider yourself capable of great things. Lend your talents to the world to make it better." -- Van Cliburn
Since 1962, Van Cliburn Foundation competitions, named for the Cold War champion of Tchaikovsky, have been putting classical pianists to the test.
They Came To Play focuses on the seventy-five participants in the 2007 International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. The documentary gives viewers glimpses of their everyday lives, their practice routines, and their performances. Among those you'll meet are an AIDS patient; a man who plays despite losing hearing in one ear; and a man who's married to a previous competitor.
The focus isn't so much on the music or their lives as it is on how they feel about their music. As you'd expect, the participants are intense and passionate, as is much of the music they play.
"The fact that I don't really rely on music for a living, I think, has really enabled me to really discover myself as a musician," said Henri-Robert Delbeau, an internal medicine practitioner who competed.
The look of the documentary is built from simple, brief sketches, talking heads, and musical excerpts. The sound comes through well.
As a bonus, six performances are included:
* Henri Robert Delbeau: Liszt, "Venezia o Napoli"
* Mark Fuller: Prokofiev, "Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, Op 29"
* Clark Griffith: Bach-Griffith, "Violin Sonata No. 1"
* Ken Ilsaca: Alkan, "Etude in G-Sharp Minor, Op 39, No. 8"
* Slava Levin: Schumann, "Toccato, Op 7"
* Drew Mays: Liszt, "Mephisto Waltz No. 1"
If you're interested in classical music, They Came To Play is worth a look -- and a listen.
Review content copyright © 2010 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Van Cliburn Foundation