Next screening is a re-run of the two outstanding historical documentaries about the life and works of German composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) this time very fittingly – in May! Last time, in October 2012, accidentally we have seen only the first of the two films for which I apologise with this second screening. 

(both films in English, the first with German subtitles*) * Unfortunately there are no English subtitles!

(2010, 76 min., dir. Michael Führ, starring the Wiener Philarmoniker under Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim and the Münchener Philarmoniker under Sergiu Celibadache, with Vladimir Ashkenazi, Hermann Prey and many more)  

DATE: 13 May 2013
TIME: 5.00 p.m.
VENUE: Howard College, MTB West Wing 1st Floor, German Programme, Media Room F251 

About the films:
These factual and enlightening documentaries shed light on Schumann’s relationship with contemporaries such as Mendelssohn, Liszt, Chopin and Brahms, and show the role his wife Clara played in his life. It concentrates on Schumann’s life as an artist, his development and his encounters with contemporaries, which also included Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz and Alexander von Humboldt. Schumann spent the last two and a half years of his life in an asylum and his doctors were not at all keen on allowing his wife Clara, who bore him eight sons, to visit him. It is only at a very late stage that they once again come into contact with one another; the tragic end is moving, even in this by no means overly emotional film.

The two documentaries at hand are an abridged version of what was originally a two-part, 110-minute documentary. Although this gives rise to a film that moves at a blistering pace, the structure remains clear and disciplined. An enormous amount of care – the kind which is seldom seen in documentaries of this kind – went into the cinematography and lighting, and the same is true of the numerous and excellently chosen pieces of music. Fuehr refreshingly refrains from interviewing modern-day “experts” – a practice so common in these types of documentaries – and focuses entirely on historical documentation. The screen is often filled with historical documents, such as portraits and maps, attesting to the different facets of the composer’s life; these are complemented by documents from contemporary performances. The interludes from concerts of the Vienna and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras, the selected lieder sung by tenor Hermann Prey and the words of pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy are also presented in a visually compact manner. Yet this film is unable to avoid one of the fundamental problems that plague documentaries of this kind. Out of necessity, the compositions presented remain musical fragments, and there are times when the viewer wishes to listen to at least some of the pieces from beginning to end. This work is, however, highly recommended as a prelude to any Schumann programme. (

All Welcome!

For more details please contact:
Dr Marion Pape
Head, German Studies
University of KwaZulu-Natal
School of Arts
Tel: 0027-31-260 1086 / 2380
Fax: 0027-31-260 1242

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