Absorbing documentary on one of the best conductors today
Valery Gergiev is not a "perfect" conductor- then again is there a conductor who is?- but of today's conductors in my view he's one of the best. Not a conductor with the most subtle stage deportment, almost erratic-looking with a sometimes just-come-out-of-a-drunken-street-fight sort of look, and there has been the odd occasion- like 2007's Swan Lake and a couple in 2002's Queen of Spades- where he's adopted some plodding tempos(mostly however they are electrifying). They feel like nothing though because he is incredibly charismatic and is a conductor who does so much more than beating time, a master of being authoritative, musical, having a real sense of line and phrasing and from bringing out so much intensity and emotion out of every single piece he conducts. You Cannot Start Without Me: Valery Gergiev, Maestro is really interesting and absorbing. The biographical parts do interest, though you do wish there was more, they did seem a little too brief and there is very little of Gergiev's private life shown(apart from glimpses of his wife and kids, the "Captain of an ocean liner" bit is quite cute). You Cannot Start Without Me is a very well-shot documentary though, and the Russian scenery and buildings(especially the magnificent Mariinsky building) are just delightful.
The music couldn't be more fitting, starting with a quite electric snippet of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and with the likes of Prokoviev's Scythian Suite, the Eugene Onegin Letter scene, Sleeping Beauty and even Don Giovanni. The rehearsal/concert footage show beautiful playing/singing as well as Gergiev knowing exactly what he wants and mostly being clear about it, and the interviews from Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Renee Fleming, Anna Netrebko, orchestral members et.al while relatively brief are complimentary and informative, that Gergiev played the piano in his early years before turning to conducting was news to me. Gergiev shows himself to be very intelligent and thoughtful when being interviewed and his English is mostly good- though there is one point where he says something about staves and says lines instead, you get the gist of what he means and that it was just the case of him saying the wrong word- apart from a tendency for his hs and rs to be somewhat guttural-sounding. Love the soft and somewhat gruff tone of his voice too, almost seductive. There's also a glimpse of what Gergiev's day in the profession is like, that his schedule is increasingly hectic is well-known but you also see him as a multi-tasker(seen especially in his conversation with a temperamental ballerina) amongst other things. You can also see master-classes and interviews where he also has a sense of humour, that he is driven to places(hired or chauffeur-driven, can't remember) and that he tries to stay half-an-hour to chat to people(seen in the Discussion with Valery Gergiev and Life in a Day videos on Youtube). Overall, an absorbing documentary that I personally learnt a fair bit from. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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