Albany Times Union


- — Jeff Pfeiffer

Piano Players, Part One

TCM, Beginning at 8 p.m.

Tonight and next Wednesday, Turner Classic Movies tickles the ivories with evenings of films featuring plenty of pianos, piano music and those who play the instrument. Most of the featured movies are biopics of real-life piano masters, while a few deal with fictional musicians. First on the program this evening is 1945’s A Song to Remember (pictured), a dramatized look at the life of famed Polish pianist/composer Frederic Chopin (Best Actor Oscar nominee Cornel Wilde). Paul Muni co-stars as Polish composer/music theorist Jozef Elsner, with Merle Oberon as French novelist George Sand, Nina Foch as Polish soprano Constantia and Stephen Bekassy as Hungarian pianist/ composer Franz Liszt. Next, the drama Song

of Love (1947) fictionali­zes the romantic triangle among pianists/composers Clara Wieck Schumann (Katharine Hepburn), Robert Schumann (Paul Henreid) and Johannes Brahms (Robert Walker). Liszt also appears here, portrayed this time by Henry Daniell. British melodrama The Seventh Veil (1945) follows, telling the story of a concert pianist (Ann Todd) who struggles to overcome a debilitati­ng delusional disorder focused on her hands that makes her unable to perform. James Mason and Herbert Lom co-star. After minor appearance­s in tonight’s first two movies, Franz Liszt finally gets to be the focus of the next film: Lisztomani­a (1975), a typically flamboyant production from writer/ director Ken Russell that offers a surreal/ comedic portrayal of the musician (played by The Who’s Roger Daltrey) as the first classical pop star. Prog rock legend Rick Wakeman, who also appears as the Norse god Thor, composed the film’s soundtrack, which includes synth versions of works by Liszt and Richard Wagner. The coda for this evening’s lineup comes with another film written and directed by Russell: Mahler (1974), a similarly unique take on Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell). BAFTA Award winner Georgina Hale co-stars as Alma Mahler in this film that was nominated for the Palme d’or at the Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Technical Grand Prize there.


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