November 2002
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The Devil's Instrument
By Mahmoud H., Fredericton High School, Fredericton, NB
Mahmoud is the associate concertmaster of the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.

The Art of Violin (a documentary)
Bruno Monsaingeon
NVC Arts 2001

This documentary avoids all fussy hotchpotch and presents the peak of the violin world in only two hours. The choice of all first-rank virtuosos is clearly given a lot of attention, and the old footage of violinists is clearly edited with extreme care.

Some of the footage released on this documentary is extremely rare, and up until recently, it was not known that videos of such artists as Ginette Neveu, Fritz Kreisler and Eugene Ysaye even exist. The footage included is very tasteful, and it only complements these wonderful violinists. Interviews with Itzhak Perlman, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis, Hilary Hahn, and Laurent Korcia seemed to bring this documentary to life, and they gave the audience a greater understanding of the performer's specific style of playing.

Part one of The Art of Violin is truly a masterful work of editing. The Mendelssohn concerto in e minor switches seamlessly between violinists, thus symbolising the different styles of playing. Everything from Milstein's perfection to Elmen's total catastrophe is given to the audience in teaspoons; just enough to get a taste, but not too much. In Part two, Monsaingeon is able to touch upon some of the most famous pieces in violin repertoire.

The Art of Violin is in part dedicated to the late Yehudi Menuhin, and Monsaingeon feeds the audience footage of Menuhin in spade-fulls. It would perhaps be more beneficial to show lesser-known footage of other violinists. During the presentation of the Mendelssohn violin concerto, interviews take place while the music still continues in the background. The concerto is cut short, and during the last few interviews it does not play in the background. This seems to break the pattern, and the violin concerto is never finished.

The director has a keen sense of how to convey a message to music-lovers. He appeals to the audience through a moderately paced walk through the golden age of violin playing. The sound quality of this film is excellent, especially in consideration of how old some of the footage is. The interviews were very informative, and relevant questions were answered. Monsaingeon clearly has respect for the artists featured on this documentary, and he did not add anything that may detract from their performance. The music was left alone, and it represented itself.

This documentary is for people who love classical music, in particular the violin. The ideas expressed here are well informed, the footage is very well edited, and the whole video is extremely well arranged.


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