I can honestly say that I have been waiting for DVD for 30 years, ever
since videotape recording was invented and, to the surprise of all
film-makers, it turned out to be possible to store moving images
electronically. I have nonetheless been surprised at the way in which
DVD has made itself different from VHS, CD, television and the
Laserdisc. It is fascinating to see how each new audio visual medium
generates not only its own format and style but its own distinct
character in the public mind.
Happily, the differences are all improvements starting, of course, with
the fact that there has never been a format which offered such high
quality either in picture or in sound – but it goes much further than
The really big difference comes from the fact that DVD is non-linear
and, consequently, everything on the disc is instantly accessible.
There is no limit to length, no tedious winding and rewinding and an
unprecedented degree of accuracy in finding what is there. All these
things make DVD an entirely new thing in the world. The differences
come also from fashion, from the spirit of the time and from the new
medium itself – wanting to make itself different and better and more
attractive. These characteristics change everything and make DVD cry
out to be big on content, compendious in range and, if possible,
Hallelujah ! Welcome DVD!
Another difference is that DVD likes not only to show us who people are
and what they are – as television has always done – but it likes also
to offer intimate, well presented evidence of what they do.
In the case of performing musicians, this means not only intimate
portraits of the artists at work, at play and in reflection off-stage,
but also well played, well lit, well shot and well edited performances
with them on-stage, projecting their glorious gifts to their public.
Bringing the artist and the art together in the way that film can do if
well handled, can produce a result that adds up to more than the sum of
the parts – and sometimes it does just that.
This combination is exactly what Allegro Films has aimed at since the
day we started and the films that we have produced enable us now to
release, in collaboration with Opus Arte, a series of DVDs that will
each contain both of those elements and a few others besides.
We live in the audiovisual age and among the great changes that
have come with technological innovation has been the ability of film to
preserve the memory of our artists in a way that was never before
Books, newspapers, critics, musicologists, radio, audio recordings and
concerts may be able to do more for the art itself but, when it comes
to remembering our artists, film does something more intimate, more
personal, more revealing. What would we give now to see really
well-made film with Niccolo Paganini himself or Franz Liszt or the
young Wolfgang Mozart or a host of others from the past?
This new possibility enjoyed a dramatic technical advance in the 60s
and we were lucky to be there in the right place and at the right time
– in the middle of a happy combination of unusual circumstances. When
we started television was new, full of hope and full of discovery. A
new post-war generation of musicians then appeared, young musicians who
had a different attitude to their public (and to television) from that
of their predecessors. Both artists and film-makers revelled in the new
possibilities and we seized them with everything that we had.
We knew that we were doing things that had not been done before for one
technical reason before all others; the first silent, lightweight 16
millimetre cameras had just been invented and for the first time in
history it was possible to set up a camera one metre away from a
performing musician without having to encase it in a staggeringly
heavy, soundproof metal casing called a blimp. A blimp looked like a
hippopotamus and, when it came to moving one, it behaved like a dead
one. At last the camera could be close, silent and agile without its
mechanical noise wrecking the music. That made it possible to take the
cameras, handheld, into the places where the artists are most at home –
where they are at their best and at their most revealing.
These things enabled us to put images on the screen that had
never been there before, neither in the cinema nor on television;
scenes which, until then, had been the exclusive, private preserve of
the great performers and their intimate friends. The new cameras and
the long lens took the viewer to places where she or he had never been
before, both on – and off-stage.
We discovered that a well-made film in this genre gives us something
which cannot be found anywhere else and to have, at last, in DVD, a
medium that not only wants all of these things but demands them, gives
us a glorious opportunity to do something for music, for musicians, for
the public, for future generations and for the preservation of our work.
We have learned also that films of this kind acquire both an historical
quality and the quality of nostalgia as the years go by because film
not only preserves the memory of our artists, it may also preserve
something of the spirit of times that may never return to the world of
Everything goes in time and, while all that I have said here holds
good, even while the artists are alive and still appearing on the
concert platform, they acquire an added significance after the artists
All this is tailor-made for DVD.
Among the musicians whom we have filmed, the world has already lost
Jacqueline du Pré, Nathan Milstein, Andrés Segovia and Isaac Stern but
they are alive in the films in a way that was never possible before.
For that, and for the unexpected and quite amazing opportunity to have
been able to make these films, I am profoundly grateful.
If DVD continues to grow and hold the public interest we hope to
release the following DVD portraits (in alphabetical order, not the
order of release),
Vladimir Ashkenazy – Daniel Barenboim and Jacqueline du Pré – Johannes
Brahms – Nathan Milstein – Modest Mussorgsky – Itzhak Perlman – Evgeny
Kissin – Gidon Kremer – Niccolo Paganini – Astor Piazzolla – Ottorino
Respighi – Arnold Schoenberg and Ludwig Wittgenstein – Franz Peter
Schubert – Andrés Segovia – Jean Sibelius – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky –
[© Christopher Nupen and Allegro Films. 25 May 2004.
Reprinted with permission.]