Conversations with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (short version)

Directed by Bruno Monsaingeon

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Gennadi Rozhdestvensky — Conductor

Viktoria Postnikova

Program notes

Watch the short version of Bruno Monsaingeon's four-hour-long film on Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, one of the most exciting documentaries produced in 2015! In front of the camera, one of the most iconic conductors of the Soviet Union and now Russia, tells his story.

Born in Moscow in 1931, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky is a charismatic and exceptionally gifted conductor. He made his conducting debut at the age of 21. After conducting at the Bolshoi Theater and the Moscow Radio Orchestra, Rozhdestvensky set forth on an international career, working with leading orchestras in Stockholm, Vienna and London. Deeply committed to contemporary music, he was a close friend of such great composers as Shostakovich and Schnittke, and briefly encountered Prokofiev towards the end of the celebrated composer's life, making Rozhdestvensky into a champion of Prokofiev's later works, which had been banned.

The film Conversations with Gennadi Rozhdestvensky was directed by outstanding music filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon. Trained as a violinist, Monsaingeon devoted a large part of his life to making of musical films on the greatest artists of our time, including Yehudi Menuhin, Nadia Boulanger, Glenn Gould, Sviatoslav Richter, David Oistrakh and many others. Interested in the person behind the art, his films are distinguished by the intimacy of their portrayals of their subjects and by their warm atmosphere.

The conversations between Rozhdestvensky and Monsaingeon were recorded in 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2015 in Moscow, Nikolina Gora and Paris. Rozhdestvensky reminisces on his childhood, his musical career, and his art, describing musical life back in the days of the Soviet Union. Over the course of the discussions, an intimate atmosphere envelopes the two artists as the venerable conductor confides more and more freely about his life. Monsaingeon's interest lies more in learning about Rozhdestvensky's personal life than in historical musical events through which he lived.

Rozhdestvensky is a highly colorful character. In any given situation, he finds its comic potential, and reflects on his experiences of the Soviet system in a way that is personal, clear and detailed. A born storyteller, he narrates many humorous anecdotes, such as the story of when he became an intern at the Bolshoi: Nikolai Semionovich Golovanov, the head the jury, told him, "We've chosen you, so get to work! One thing though—don't hope to conduct here one day. It will never happen." Rozhdestvensky quickly proved him wrong, becoming principal conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre in 1965 and General Artistic Director in 2000!

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