Judge Daryl Loomis was a pan flute prodigy, known as the Zamfir of his kindergarten.
The life and music of one of history's greatest composers.
In most circles, there are three names in the argument for best composer ever: Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven. As far as this documentary is concerned, there's not much of an argument at all. In Search of Mozart is a comprehensive, historically-based look at the life and work of Mozart.
Delivered chronologically, In Search of Mozart still manages to insert a little drama into the story by using a three-act structure with the composer's life. Director Phil Grabsky first gives us some background on the composer's father, Leopold, a composer himself and Wolfgang's only real music instructor. The first section really begins as Mozart's natural talent has shone through at a very young age and his father starts to take the boy around to perform, make a little money, and maybe make some commission connections. The second part focuses on Mozart as a young man, trying to make his way on his own, finding little money but large artistic success. The final part deals with the composer as his life begins to fall apart and finishes, obviously, with his death at 35 in 1791.
Along the way, Grabsky provides nearly every important historical detail about the composer, through narration and interviews, all set upon nature or performance footage. A number of his major works are performed for the camera, at least in part, and even some of his minor works get some action. When the interview subjects aren't delivering biographical information, they're gushing about his music. They understandably go on about the importance of his work, the beauty of the notes, and the meaning of it all in Mozart's life. There's no chance of a dissenting opinion in a documentary like this. Nobody who says, "Man, that Eine klein Nachtmusik is a bunch of overrated BS!" will make the film, so there was no reason to expect one. Still, the praise is over-the-top, if not unexpected.
The music is beautifully performed by world class musicians and, in some cases, the pieces were performed exclusively for the film. This allows Grabsky to get some nice shots of the orchestras and soloists making the music. As always, seeing these people play up-close adds a whole new level of respect for the skill of the performers and the beauty of the music. These performance pieces, presented almost exclusively in chronological order, include his first piece, Andante in C for Keyboard (K.1a), Symphony No. 10 in G (K.74), and Requiem in d (K.626), his final piece, plus seventy more in between.
It's amusing in the interviews to hear historians and performers lament the existence of Milos Forman's Amadeus. It isn't that they think it is a particularly bad film, but its effect on the perception and understanding of the composer and his life. People can argue about the need for historical accuracy in a film, but I happen to loudly agree with them. I've taken a lot of ridicule over the years for this "irrational" viewpoint. Having this validated by those involved in the music makes me chuckle. To everybody who has made fun of that view: suck on that.
The disc from Seventh Art is nothing particularly special, but it's good on all counts. The image transfer is solid, with good detail and clarity in the performance scenes. While there is only a stereo mix, the sound is more than acceptable. All the interviews are easy to hear and the music is full throughout the scales. Overall, it sounds great. The only extra is an interview the director. Grabsky needs to learn to sit back a little from the camera, but he gives plenty of good information on his intentions for the film and the production.
In Search of Mozart is a fine documentary, comprehensive but rarely dry. Grabsy's film is worthy of a place in any music DVD collection, and every music school library owes it to their students to have this on hand.
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