From a mostly lurker:
I recently saw Monsaingeon's documentary on Menuhin at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art. The director was present to answer questions after
the presentation. "Violin of the Century" is a good look at Menuhin's long
career, surveying his San Francisco beginnings, his overworked early youth,
and his long stint as musical diplomat. Very upbeat and intentionally
skims the downsides of Menuhin's career and personal life. There is also
a nice section devoted to Menuhin's pianist sister Hephzibah. Monsaingeon
hopes that the video will be available in the United States sometime in May
Favorable comments from listmembers about the director's other works led
me to purchase his videos on Sviatoslav Richter and David Oistrakh. Of
these, the Richter piece stands out as a marvelous piece of documentary
filmmaking. Richter reads extensively from his diaries while rare footage
plays. The Oistrakh piece "Artist of the People?" appears to be an
apologetic for the subject's membership in the Communist Party and his
apparent willingness to be an instrument (sorry) of Soviet foreign policy.
This came at a high cost as Oistrakh is said to have felt quite differently
internally. Menuhin, Rostropovich, Rozhdestvensky, Kremer, and Igor
Oistrakh speak extensively to this issue. Exquisite performance footage
again pervades. "Richter: The Enigma" is the masterpiece but the other
two are well worth owning.
The post-presentation discussions with Monsaingeon were very illuminating.
A concert violinist, himself, he's spent most of his recent life making
films about great performers. He seems to focus on the positive and in
Menuhin's case tried very hard to avoid presenting unpleasantness. He was,
however, quite forthcoming in answering audience questions about these
matters and gave out anecdotes about the Menuhin family that he explicitly
did not include in the film.
The store also had a two-volume video of Ruggiero Ricci encouragingly
titled "The Complete Book on Violin Playing." This regrettably consists
only of single-camera video of two Ricci recitals; a 1988 effort in Rome
including Bach, Bartok, Prokofiev, and Paganini and a 1985 concert in
London mostly dedicated to Bach. The audio on the former is very muddy,
making the familiar Bach indistinct and the difficult Bartok unlistenable.
I don't like Bartok in general and this recording certainly didn't help!
The London audio was rather better, especially in the high end of the
spectrum. Video quality on both tapes is quite poor consisting only of
one home-caliber camera trained on the stage. No liner notes or other
discussion are supplied.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA