Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Don't Miss "Potemkin"

Friday's "Go!" will contain a preview of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic's upcoming Saturday performance of "Battleship Potemkin" with music by Dmitri Shostakovich. Last night I finally saw the film with the Shostakovich score, and can safely say that it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Even on a laptop computer with a 14-inch screen, and not-very-good sound, the effect is shattering. I can't imagine the effect with live music.

Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 silent movie hasn't aged as well as Shostakovich's music. There's a honest-to-gosh mustache twisting villain, and many of Eisenstein's once-revolutionary cinematic techniques are now so old-hat that it's impossible for us to feel their originality. (It's like hearing Walter Gieseking's Debussy for the first time - since it's now the way nearly all pianists play Debussy, we don't realize how original it was in the 1930s.) But Eisenstein's framing of scenes is still amazingly beautiful - he has the design sense of a master painter, making you viscerally aware of what "motion picture" used to mean - and the chiaroscuro (the contrast of stark white and deep black in nearly every scene) gives the movie tremendous visual intensity. Eisenstein makes most other film directors look either unimaginative or just plain lazy.

As for Shostakovich, I continue to find him the most enigmatic of the great composers. Musically, I understand what he's doing at any given moment; but from the standpoint of emotional or intellectual motivation, I rarely understand why he's doing it. Which fortunately is a largely theoretical issue: As a listener, I can simply immerse myself in Shostakovich's incredibly vivid and weirdly beautiful world.

The music was not written specifically for the film, which leads to a few semi-inexplicable juxtapositions. But all in all it works well, and the overall impact promises to be irresistible.

The concert is 8 p.m. Saturday. Learn more here.


Post a Comment

<< Home