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Put Antonio Pappano in front of a movie camera and the result is compulsive viewing. Put him in front of an Italian orchestra and the result – to judge by this DVD, released ahead of next week’s UK tour by the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – is compulsive listening.
Pappano has energised the Rome-based ensemble since he became music director in 2005, as Bozzolini’s 100-minute film makes clear. Some of the footage covers ground common to all leading orchestras – the function of the conductor, the chemistry with guest artists, the travails of touring, the need to express individuality within a cohesive, disciplined group – but the film also probes the character of this particular set of musicians.
There are archive clips of Giulini (who started his career as a violinist in the Santa Cecilia) and Bernstein, plus an interview with Yuri Temirkanov, presumably to show the breadth of the orchestra’s sympathies. Most revealing of all are the interviews with Pappano: the underlying message is that Italian musicians prefer enjoyment to structure, heart to precision. “Being Italian,” muses one, “we’re more likely to be caught up in the moment, without many filters between life and music.”
In his attempt to be encyclopedic, Bozzolini creates too many detours – a visit to an instrument-maker, snapshots of musicians at home, footage of a trumpeter on an Alpine peak. The result is long-winded and occasionally banal, but Pappano and the orchestra emerge as a partnership with indomitable soul and an unswerving commitment to music.
The Italian Character
The Story of a Great Italian Orchestra