Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Il gattopardo at Helsinki Festival

Helsinki Festival started last Friday, and our first main contribution, a complete Luchino Visconti retrospective, was launched today with a print of the restored Il gattopardo (The Leopard) - of the previous restoration, not this year's digital mega-restoration based on the 8K master. I watched the first half an hour for comparison. The Cinecittà print screened today is so excellent that I would never have felt the need to see another restoration. Yet it is undeniably true that this year's Rolls Royce restoration is superior. In each incarnation this masterpiece keeps finding new generations of audiences; I did not see many familiar faces in today's almost sold-out screening. Visconti is a master of the historical film: his recreation of the epoch of the Italian reunification is full of life.

Having sampled Il gattopardo I had a rhum toddy at the Corona Bar. Aki Kaurismäki has driven to town to relax from the editing of Le Havre. Then at Helsinki University Hall Leif Segerstam conducts Tapiola Sinfonietta in his Sibelius: 7 Symphonies project of the Helsinki Festival.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 3 in C Major is a step into a more classical direction from Sibelius' national romantic inspiration, an interiorized homage to the spirit of Mozart without external similarities. This is a symphony that is immediately easy to like, yet there are more profound layers to reward the repeat listener. It is also a playful celebration of the expressive powers of the symphony orchestra brilliantly realized by Leif Segerstam and Tapiola Sinfonietta.

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No 4 in a minor is the great turning-point: no more the happy and jubilant maestro, but a deeply disturbed soul. To a man of the cinema this Jean Sibelius' Psycho brings to mind Bernard Herrmann's deranged sounds, also to On Dangerous Ground, Cape Fear, and Taxi Driver. I am not an expert in the theory of music, but I suspect that the tritone is the key to this affinity. There are even atonal aspects in this symphony. Experts met at the concert agreed that this is Sibelius' greatest symphony; I the man of the street seem to notice passages where JS is marking time. Anyway, the interpretation was so powerful that it went into the dreams and kept the smile out of the face until next morning.

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