There are far more fantastically talented classical instrumentalists who never become hot international commodities or even regular recording artists.
There are far more fantastically talented classical instrumentalists who never become hot international commodities or even regular recording artists. That's one truth underlined by this subtly produced documentary; another is that the competition circuit can be a nerve-fraying, heartbreaking experience—for onlookers, as well as participants. Every four years, the world's most ambitious young pianists convene in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Director Peter Rosen captured the very human essence of last year's event, the 11th, by following several of the pianists as they lived with Fort Worth families, endlessly practiced and fretted over pleasing the jury, and interacted with teachers and such collaborators as conductor James Conlon. Among the joint gold and silver medal winners—the top slots were shared for the first time last year—Russian pianist Olga Kern steals the show with her fun-loving, emotive charm and intensely poetic playing. Beyond the documentary—which originally aired on PBS—the double-sided DVD-Video comes with complete performances of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto with Kern and the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with Uzbekistani co-gold medalist Stanislav Ioudenitch. As part of their prizes, last year's winners had recital highlights issued on disc by Harmonia Mundi. The album by Kern—the first female gold-medal winner since 1969—should help make her a star.—BB