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“I don’t like myself”

These are the last words that the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter utters in the biopic dedicated to him by Bruno Monsaingeon. An epitaph that, however, connotass the excellence of the director and musician French just as a portraitist. Because Bruno Monsaingeon is this, as much an actor of music (capable of acting on the artistic level in the first person), as a wise spectator of the other talent. And if it’s a spectator, it’s mostly in order to reconstruct: total artist, able to transpose on film a personality of the caliber of Richter, in his dual appearance of “cold-blooded genius”and man “incredibly sensitive and vulnerable.” Working long side by side, Monsaingeon manages to assemble filmed and played portraits of the Russian genius,until he makes the award-winning film Richter, The Enigma (1998). But this is just one of the fascinating lives observed and synthesized by Monsaingeon’smusical eye.

Writing and filming music

Parisian violinist and first-person concert pianist, but also pianist and musicologist, for the last thirty years Monsaingeon dedicates his career to interdisciplinary. A strong link between cinema and music, thanks to which he tirelessly produces biographies for images of the most important musicians of the twentieth century. He collaborated extensively with Yehdi Menuhin and Glenn Gould,composers he portrayed in numerous films focusing on different aspects of their work. Two in particular are the most successful in the world: The Open Wall, Menhuin in China and The Goldberg Variations. Menuhin also stars in the three-episode documentary Retour aux Souces,about his return to the Soviet Union.

“The last documentary we made with Menuhin is the result of thirty years of collaboration. It can be said that it is the result of an extraordinary relationship also from the human point of view”

Stories of men and artists

In the 1990s he embarked on two long-term projects. The first, on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, follows the German master’s work through numerous concerts and masterclasses on Mozart, Schubert and Schuman, and ends in a documentary summed entitled Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Autumn Journey (1998). The second project concerns David Oistrakh, deservedly known to his admirers as “King David”. Monsaingeon traces its history, from its birth in Odessa in 1908, until its death in 1974, in Amsterdam, of a heart attack. The result is the film David Oistrakh, Artist of the People? (1995), the wounded story of a talent who grew up in the shadow of Stalinism.

“Music was the only glimmer from which the sun filtered… oxygen, life”

A biography full of materials and testimonies: on the one hand Rostropovich, Menuhin and Rojdesvensky, passionate connoisseurs of his work, who speak of a musically extraordinary personality; on the other, the testimonies of his son Igor, himself a composer, which are equally precious as they can shed light on man. This, moreover, is the great capacity of the Monsaingeon director: to bring out from art the human, deep, personal path.

In 2012 it also completes Glenn Gould. The Alchemist. An in-depth documentary made on several occasions by the Canadian master Glenn Gould, The Alchemist returns to us intact the magic of his always original interpretations. Once again Bruno Monsaingeon portrays a deity of the musical scene at the best of his artistic talent.

“Glenn wrote to me, ‘These weeks we’ve been filming I’m going to remember them as the happiest of my professional life.'”

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Associazione Musicale PianoLink
Milano, Italy

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