26 December 2008 | rilawpress
Cinematic treasure of 20th century's greatest violinist
Although many audio recordings of great musicians like Jascha Heifetz survive, the cinematic or televised record is limited indeed. This is why musical offerings like "They Shall Have Music" are such rare gems. While, with modern eyes and ears, one can quibble about the plot, the perceptive viewer should put this film's unique delights in their proper perspective. The plot was designed to appeal to both young and old audiences of the era, but it remains enjoyable to this day. A important aspect of the experience of watching classic films is to see them through the eyes of the moviegoer of that era.
I must take issue with reviewer who complains about a film that is in black and white, or who feel obliged to report that their students express such reservations. These are juvenile complaints which reflect a limited historical perspective. For the teacher, this should offer up an educational opportunity to explain the unique qualities of black and white photography and its place in cinematic history. Color can, in fact, get in the way of a good storyline, or the music. For example, the black and white photography of John Ford's "Stagecoach," is, like the still photographs of Ansel Adams, an artistic masterpiece.
As for Heifetz being wooden, I could not disagree more. If you want blatant emotional posturing, go to a rock concert. The role of a classical musician like Heifetz is to move the audience, not him or herself. Heifetz's emotion is conveyed through his playing, not through his body language. He had a rare ability to extract every emotional nuance out of the music and transfer it to his listeners. It is the listener who should be moved, not the artist.
Incidentally, one reviewer asked about seeing Heifetz on YouTube playing the 1st movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, with Frank McHugh in the audience. This is from the 1947 film "Carnegie Hall," not "They Shall Have Music" "Carnegie Hall" is an even greater treasure of many great classical artists in their prime. We are blessed that there were film producers who, at least in these limited instances, chose to showcase these artists. In was still an era not totally overwhelmed by the lowest common denominator tripe we get today.