James Conlon describes two facets of the stage personality of pianists based on features of the ancient Greek gods: Apollo and Dionysus.
Some can be closer to Apollo in their fluid easy looking playing, whereas some evoke a Dionysian spirit which characterizes itself by wildness and an excess of passion. Beethoven was one composer to equally combine both sides: where as his compositions were "defiant to the gods" they also sounded perfectly clear and neat. Menahem Pressler, the German pianist, comes to confirm this duality of musical expression which is also to be found in the expectations of the audience: they come to the concert not only to hear a smooth and virtuoso piece but they also look for an emotional experience.
In this series of programmes, James Conlon explores various aspects of playing classical music: is this about beauty or is it about truth? Is it about technique or is it about spirit? Is it about tradition or innovation? Is it more like Plato or is it more like Aristotle? Is it more like Apollo or is it more like Dionysus? And finally, are you going to be the music or are you gonna play the music? Filmed during the 12th edition of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Texas, these 6 programmes discuss those aspects with the finalists of the competition, and include footages of their performances on stage during the semifinals.
A documentary by Peter Rosen. Narrated by Dan Rather
BBC Television Studios, 1959-1960
The 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 2009