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The Orchestra (1990)

TV Movie
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A poor choice of graphics becomes a major flaw.
31 May 2003 | by (Mountain Mesa, California) – See all my reviews

This is an apparent continuance, created for television, of a work written by its producer, Canadian Mark Rubin, and released concurrently in book and audio cassette form, with Peter Ustinov doing the reading, and that recording constitutes the sound track here of a work for a different medium, intended for all ages and divided into three parts illustrating artistic functions played by instruments of a symphony orchestra. Presented are 28 excerpts from various stylistic periods, including classical (Beethoven), romantic (Grieg, Tchaikowsky), and modern (Prokofiev), all played adequately by the Toronto Philharmonic under the baton of Walter Babiak, the mentioned three parts being: a fundamental introduction to orchestral music; a description of the string and woodwind sections; a visual catalogue of those instruments that comprise brass and percussion contingents. Obviously directed at a very young audience indeed, part one is improved upon in subsequent footage, and although Ustinov's plummy voice swallows words rather too often, a good deal of interesting and useful information is given as he moves through his account of the diverse instruments; it is unfortunate that the eye is forced to tarry upon unimaginative and static graphics, with the figured musicians oddly garbed in the worst examples of 1970s pop apparel.

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