"BEST PORTRAIT" AWARD
PREMIER GRAND PRIX
Europe: March 2005
'Claudio Abbado - Hearing the Silence' conveys an intensely moving view on one of the leading musicians of our time. In several interviews, Abbado talks about artistic, musical and biographical aspects of his life. The film shows excerpts from rehearsals and concerts with some of his favourite orchestras. Statements from colleagues and friends are combined with views from his favourite surroundings and help to characterize the "silent thinker".
Film Director Paul Smaczny had a very rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the immensely private personality of Claudio Abbado, described by many in the film as noble and elegant but also as a warm-hearted friend. The musicians all mention his reserved, but exact gestures, his respectful way of working in rehearsals and concerts and the atmosphere of co-operation this creates. Co-operation in music making is an aspect that, as Abbado indicates in one of his interviews, is very important to him and one that is at the core of his artistic intentions. Together with rarely seen historical filmed material and documents of him rehearsing and performing works by Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Debussy, Dvorak, Strauss, Stravinsky and Nono, these interviews make up an extensive portrait of one of the most important personalities in the classical musical world.
Bruno Ganz, Swiss actor and close friend, opens the comments and observations of the featured artists. They all speak of their work with the conductor and share a sense of awe for his achievements with orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic or the orchestras he founded. These include the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, founded in 1986 and most recently the enormously successful Lucerne Festival Orchestra made up of handpicked soloists and preeminent musicians like Kolja Blacher, Albrecht Mayer, Sabine Meyer, Emanuel Pahud and Natalia Gutman.
The film follows Abbado’s work with the orchestras with whom he most frequently collaborated, making use of both recent and archival film documents. Thus it recounts his astonishing career, which began in 1960 at La Scala in Milan, where he was musical director from 1968 to 1986. From 1986 to 1991 he was musical director of the Vienna Staatsoper and he has been Generalmusikdirektor of the city of Vienna since 1987. In 1988 he founded the Wien Modern Festival, a contemporary music event that has expanded to include different aspects of art. He conducted the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time in 1966; in 1989 the orchestra elected him principal conductor and artistic director. In 2001 he became the first conductor ever not to avail himself of his life contract with the famous orchestra and the film explains how other projects became important to him after learning of his illness with cancer.
This marvellous filmed portrait, now available on TDK DVD, has won two prestigious festival prizes at major art film festivals in 2004: “Best Portrait” award (Prix du meilleur portrait) at the 22nd International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) in Montreal, regarded as the most important art film festival in North America, and the Premier Grand Prix at the 28th UNESCO International Art Film Festival (Festival International Du Film d'Art et Pédagogique) in Paris.
The TDK DVD of this award-winning portrait will include a pensive and very personal essay by Hungarian author Peter Esterházy, who has just been honoured with the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels the international German book award.