You Cannot Start Without Me – Valery Gergiev, Maestro

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: BelAir
ALBUM TITLE: A film by Allan Miller
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman, Renée Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Leonidas Kavakos, Uliana Lopatkina, Anna Netrebko; musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera and Mariinsky Theatre
CATALOGUE NO: BAC053 (NTSC system; Dolby Digital 5.1; 16: 9 picture format)

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Few of us, whether audience members or journalists, haven’t been exasperated by the crazy Gergiev lifestyle, whether waiting four hours for an interview at the Mariinsky Theatre or 15 minutes for a concert to start because the maestro was still wheeler-dealing elsewhere.

This far from hagiographical documentary presents without comment the Gergievian chaos, the 26-hour working day which so often produces results, comical small talk with beloved protegées like Anna Netrebko, his ability to charm wealthy patrons or finance ministers, and a rather bizarre home life. It also gives us enough of Valery Gergiev in rehearsal to validate the words bandied about so often by the man and his musicians: ‘magic’, ‘magnet’, ‘atmosphere’, ‘human’, ‘beauty’. They’re all here, reinforced by the material in the extras.

So we move from the mixed bag of the Mariinsky, including enough of the horror-Ring to give the knowing a good laugh, lovely sequences in the Caucasus and a tense but obviously inspiring Russian tour, to the LSO at the Barbican and a startlingly fresh performance of Rite of Spring. Gergiev speaks sense and hears everything – even a piccolo staccato within a tutti when he wants, as often, tenuto. Among many telling homages, tuba player Patrick Harrild tells us how Gergiev’s sense of phrase and line allows him to hear a melody in two notes.

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Of course, for every couple of truly great performances from the maestro, there’s one that doesn’t work; but for all his rush and a view of Russian political order we Westerners find hard to grasp, there’s no one like Gergiev. David Nice