Icon in B Minor: a musical odyssey is the tale of two creative souls from different centuries with the same belief in spiritual transformation through their art. World-renowned New Zealand concert pianist Michael Houstoun is filmed on his pilgrimage to Germany, where composer Franz Liszt spent his last years. Houstoun is preparing for his performance of Liszt's monumental work, Sonata in B Minor. Produced and directed by Tainui Stephens, Icon in B Minor screened as part of the Work of Art series.
In this 1971 film pianist Barry Margan ‘humps’ his grand piano around NZ, on a mission to bring classical piano to places where it might not typically be heard. Aiming to break down barriers to enjoying live chamber music, Margan plays his pop-up piano (including Douglas Lilburn’s ‘Sonatina’) at coffee bars, libraries and art galleries. The trailer-borne grand is not easy to set up, but the audiences (from soldiers to children) are willing. Narrated by Margan, this was the last film in the National Film Unit's three decade-spanning Pictorial Parade magazine series.
This documentary follows Auckland-based, Italian-born pianist Flavio Villani as he prepares to play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s demanding Piano Concerto No. 2 in Italy — his debut performance as a soloist with an orchestra. Director Rebecca Tansley, who funded much of the documentary herself, tails Villani from four months before the recital that will challenge the prodigal son to affirm his career choice and sexuality, in front of his Italian ex-military father. When it debuted at the 2015 Auckland Film Festival, Crossing Rachmaninoff won a standing ovation.
"Jazz is an attitude ... how you look at yourself, how you look at the world." So argues the subject of this rich and moody Work of Art documentary: jazz pianist Mike Nock. The Ngaruawahia-raised muso first went on the road in his teens, and by 18 had left New Zealand for a long career in Sydney, London and New York City. Director Geoffrey Cawthorn and his film crew travel with Nock in small-town New Zealand and big city NY, capturing memories of childhood, touring and inspiration. Also included: some beautifully-lit performances by Nock and his cohorts.
Framed around a visit to New Zealand by Irish-born entertainer Danny La Rue, this all-singing all-dancing spectacular was recorded over three days in March 1980. The “fella in a frock” was famed for his drag acts and double entendres. Comedians Jon Gadsby and David McPhail provide local support as Marlene Dietrich visits a farm, Mae West visits the All Blacks changing room, and Margaret Thatcher meets Robert Muldoon (McPhail). Filmed at Avalon Studios, the revue was a co-production with London Weekend Television, made during the golden era of NZ TV variety shows.
In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.
This Steve La Hood-directed documentary provides a candid, behind-the-scenes portrait of an orchestral musician's life, following the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for 13 days on a nationwide tour. Included is footage of rehearsals, travel, and concert performances. There's a glimpse of some internal politics, and insight into how the musicians relax. Holding the baton is conductor Nicholas Braithwaite; guest pianist on tour is Peter Donohoe. Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto and Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio feature prominently.
On Camera interviewer Judith Fyfe encounters American jazz bandleader William ‘Count’ Basie (1904 - 1984) on a 1971 NZ tour, 35 years after founding his legendary band. The Count Basie Orchestra defined the big band era, scoring multiple Grammys and backing Holiday, Crosby, Sinatra, King Cole, Bennett and Fitzgerald. In this interview the former silent movie pianist smokes, smiles and seems simultaneously laid-back and a tad testy, as he talks touring and early days, side-steps personal questions and laughs about rain impeding his gee-gees gambling habit in NZ.
The Great Maiden's Blush hinges on two people from very different backgrounds: a girl-racer in prison for manslaughter (Hope and Wire's Miriama McDowell), who plans to adopt out her baby, and a failed classical pianist (Renee Lyons) whose own baby is due for a risky operation. Each must confront their own secrets in order to move forward. Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader's acclaimed third movie continues an interest in character-rich stories where "big themes play out in modest circumstances". It won awards for McDowell and Best Self-Funded Film at the 2017 NZ Film Awards.
Mercury Lane was a story-driven arts show that generally included a cluster of short documentaries, poetry and musical performances in each hour-long episode. This episode of the Greenstone-produced arts series features Sam Hunt interviewing acclaimed New Zealand poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell. Campbell discusses his early childhood in the Cook Islands as the child of a Pākehā father and Polynesian mother, and reads a selection of poems. The programme ends with Auckland pianist Tamas Vesmas playing a Debussy prelude at the Auckland Art Gallery.