September 30, 1934 — February 19, 2023
Christopher Nupen is a south-African born filmmaker. After moving to Britain, he began his broadcasting career in the Features Department of BBC Radio. His first assignment was the High Festival in Siena, a radio documentary on the summer music school of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, produced in 1962 by Laurence Gilliam for the BBC Third Programme.
His radio programmes convinced Huw Wheldon to invite him to move to BBC Television, where he created a new kind of intimate classical music films using the first silent 16mm film cameras developed in the 1960s. His first film Double concerto, with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim, won two international prizes (Prague and Monte Carlo) and became a seminal work.
He worked with leading musicians such as Jacqueline du Pré, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Nathan Milstein, Andrés Segovia, Isaac Stern and Evgeny Kissin, who were also his friends.
In 1968 he co-founded Allegro Films, a team with which he made The Trout, the film of the performance by Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman and Zubin Mehta of Schubert’s Trout quintet, probably the most frequently broadcast classical music film ever made (1969).
He also directed the top-selling classical DVD Jacqueline Du Pré in Portrait, awarded DVD of the Year in Cannes in 2005, a prize, this last, that Nupen obtained also in 2006 for We want the light.
Nupen has been described by Sir Jeremy Isaacs and Sir Denis Forman as the undoubted master of the genre he pioneered and one whose work is an enduring source of musical delight. Similarly, the Oxford philosopher and historian of ideas, Sir Isaiah Berlin, described some of his works as "at just about the highest level which television is capable of reaching".