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Noted music commentator Deems Taylor begins this documentary film by stating that many of the great musicians are also great human beings, and in order to allow the public to get to know them and to preserve an enduring record of their artistry, Twentieth Century-Fox, in cooperation with World Artists Productions, has produced an intimate portrait of several great artists.
The film then shows famed pianist Artur Rubinstein as he is practicing and recording an album, and comments on his tireless devotion to his art. Mr. Johnstone, a fictional representative of a film company, meets Rubinstein and tells him about the company's intention to produce a series of films called "Personal Record," which would show musicians at work and at home. Rubinstein is reluctant to participate until Johnstone points out how beneficial it would have been if cameras existed in the time of Frédéric Chopin, so that his techniques and greatness could have been captured for all time. Rubinstein invites Johnstone to visit him at home that evening, and there plays several songs for him before showing him a triptych painting that depicts the various phases of his life. As Johnstone leaves, Rubinstein's wife enters his study with their two youngest children, and the pianist treats them to a rendition of "Pop Goes the Weasel."
Taylor then praises the talents of well-known Metropolitan Opera singers Jan Peerce and Nadine Connor, and the film shows them returning to a concert hall to retrieve a score that Nadine left behind after a performance. When they enter the hall, they find an elderly night watchman listening to one of their records. The man is delighted to meet his idols and explains that he was once a singer, too. Touched by the man's devotion to opera, Jan and Nadine put on a concert just for him, and his imagination vividly supplies their lavish costumes and sets, and a full orchestra to play for them.
Taylor then comments on the difficulty of mastering the violin and states that one of the great living masters of the instrument is Jascha Heifetz. Contending that it is not only Heifetz' technical skill that makes him a virtuoso, but his humanity, the film shows scenes of Heifetz with his wife and family during his everyday life in California. Heifetz then goes to his self-designed studio to prepare for a concert tour, and, ever alert to the possibility of mistakes, begins practicing with the simplest scales. The violinist also spends many hours pouring over his sheet music in order to prevent playing automatically or incorrectly, and spends long months practicing with his accompanist. During his concert, the audience is moved by his brilliance, and Taylor remembers the advice given to Heifetz by George Bernard Shaw, who stated that such perfection angered the gods and he should play a few wrong notes to appease them. Heifetz' perfect fingering is often too quick for the naked eye to study, so the cameras record him in slow motion, so that his techniques can be studied by future musicians.
For the final sequence, Taylor discusses the orchestral conductor, whom the audience never hears, although he brings great music into their lives. As an example, Taylor mentions Dimitri Mitropoulos, one of the premier conductors of the world, who does not use a baton or a printed score. Mitropoulos greets the members of his orchestra, the New York Philharmonic Symphony, the oldest symphony in the United States, as they arrive at Carnegie Hall for a rehearsal. As they rehearse the third movement of Franz Lizst's A Faust Symphony , Mitropoulos urges them to communicate Mephistopholes' emotions more clearly, and when the piccolo sounds before the flute, Mitropoulos, who has the entire score memorized, gently instructs the players. The rehearsal fades to that evening's performance, and a grateful audience enjoys Mitropoulos' dedication to the music and his orchestra.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York premiere: 13 Feb 1951|
|Release Date:||1951||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Production Co:||World Artists Productions, Inc., Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
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