Listening Through the Lens (2021): The Christopher Nupen Films
A feature-length documentary about the pioneering film director Christopher Nupen, who founded one of the first independent (television) production companies in the 1960s, at the dawn of the music documentary era. Seizing upon the emerging silent camera technology and his unique access to a golden generation of artists, he filmed classical music in a completely new and intimate way. Now 86, Nupen reflects on over 75 productions about musicians and composers, spanning more than 50 years.
He is joined by leading figures in music (Daniel Barenboim, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniil Trifonov, John Williams, Evgeny Kissin and Pinchas Zukerman) and broadcasting (David Attenborough, David Elstein, Michael Grade and Melvyn Bragg) who share their insight of a unique chapter in the history of music on television.
Listening Through The Lens cherry picks from Nupen’s best work from 1966 to 2017. When he started, he instinctively blended documentary and musical performance, to create a new genre of film. He filmed musicians at close quarters on stage, in their natural environment, where they have most to offer. The effects were dramatic and brought countless numbers of people to music for the first time, breaking down the barriers between musicians and the wider public.
A musician himself, Nupen’s musical friends were among the most-renowned artists of the 20th and 21st century. As his experience grew, he tackled musical ideas and the lives of the great composers (such as Schubert, Sibelius, Paganini, Tchaikovsky and Brahms).
The Oxford philosopher and historian, Sir Isaiah Berlin, described Nupen’s films as being “at just about the highest-level which television is capable of reaching”.
As a body of work, Nupen’s films convincingly enforce his conviction that television is capable of remembering our artists as no other medium can equal. For some, like Jacqueline du Pré, they remain a rare and exclusive encapsulation of her extraordinary talent.
The films of Christopher Nupen, represent a single-minded dedication to share the spiritual power of music and he will leave a legacy of lasting value.
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