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Competitors: Russia's Child Prodigies / A Film by Irene Langemann [DVD]

Album Summary

>Various : Work(s)
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Ten years ago Russia's Wonder Children documented the struggles and triumphs of four extraordinary piano prodigies. Now, in Competitors, the cameras return to discover how their lives and careers have developed, and whether time has brought the lasting success they all desired. As aspiring soloists they experience intense competition, gruelling practice sessions and professional setbacks, yet all these pianists have remained true to their art. 'You have to love the music, not yourself in the music,' explains the youngest, Irina. 'Or rather, the music in you.'

"Notice to all piano teachers, music colleges and aspiring young pianists: watch this film...this is a riveting, frequently moving and brilliantly constructed documentary. A cautionary tale? Yes, but ending with a ray of hope." -Classic FM

Video Librarian - K. Fennessy
A viable standalone film, Competitors also serves as a follow-up to 2000's Russia's Wonder Children, since it features the same four piano students: Irina, Dmitry, Nikita, and Elena, from Moscow's Central Music School. Director Irene Langemann inserts clips from the first documentary, including a performance by Elena in Vatican City in front of Pope John Paul II. Now, the pianist lives in Germany with her husband and daughter and seeks representation, but the competition is fierce, so a former professor helps her line up engagements. Langemann interweaves the earlier footage to illustrate how her subjects forged their identities early on. For instance, Irina (the youngest, at 18) still fusses with her gloves before a performance - enjoying playing as much as ever, but fretting more. As she tells her parents, "I'm at the age when I want to make my dreams a reality." All four perform in competitions and concerts throughout Europe, and friends Dmitri and Nikita continue to help each other with their compositions. Langemann travels with the young pianists to France, Italy, Austria, and Mexico, speaking with a few judges along the way to learn about the standards upon which they base their decisions (one acknowledges that "luck is very important"). Since most contests favor players under 30, Elena worries that her luck is running out. Expressing what could be the film's thematic statement, she notes that being a former child prodigy "is like standing in your own shadow." Recommended.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 98 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1


A valuable look behind the performance curtain
This documentary is a follow-up to the film “Russia’s Wonder Children” that examines the lives of four piano prodigies ten years later. There are excerpts of these young men and women as children playing the piano that are simultaneously uplifting and frightening – as seeing mere children playing some astonishingly difficult music can be a bit off-putting. The film shows them both at their studies and behind-the-scenes preparing for or giving concerts around the world. The real power of the film is in the daily struggles of which many are unaware…trying to find a manager, and competing with all of the other gifted pianists that are trying to make a living in this profession. As Elena Kolesnichenko says, “It’s like standing in your own shadow. Everyone’s thinking, ‘there’s that girl who used to…’”. It is very evident in the film that each of these young people is under tremendous pressure to succeed. We see Elena talk about playing at the Beethoven Competition (and shame on them for not allowing her performance to be filmed), and her reaction back at home with her husband after not winning the competition. The level of emotional involvement that these artists put into their work is not unexpected, but it is particularly touching when witnessed in this way. As for the film itself, it lacks the polish of other documentaries, the camera lingering in places that lead to a feeling of the film dragging as many independent films do. But if you are captivated by music and want to learn more about what it takes to get to the concert hall stage, then this film provides a valuable look behind the performance curtain.
Submitted on 07/18/11 by KlingonOpera 
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Works Details

>Various : Work(s)
  • Performers: Irina Chistyakova (Piano); Elena Kolesnichenko (Piano); Dmitry Krutogolovy (Piano); Nikita Mndoyants (Piano)