Classical Musician Biopics- on Amazon Prime & Netflix

Frederic Chopin – A Song To Remember – 1945 Directed by Charles Vidor. Cornel Wilde plays Chopin. With Paul Muni and Merle Oberon. Even as a child prodigy, Chopin is portrayed as being aware of the Russian/Polish situation that becomes his parallel life concern (with music). Too poor to go to Paris for further instruction, he depends on promotion by his devoted teacher. As a young man (a secret political activist), he’s at last invited to play for an important audience, but storms out declaring the new, Tsar-appointed governor, a butcher.

Chopin flees to Paris where his music finds two influential fans, Franz Liszt and George Sand. Madame Sand spirits him away to her country house and then Majorca, acquiring Chopin as her lover. She keeps him away from friends, supporters, and his cause, first in the name of music, and then illness. He produces his most famous pieces, but eventually breaks away to undertake a tour raising money for Poland. And dies of consumption. Take it with a grain. Amazon Prime

Frederic Chopin – Impromptu – 1991 Directed by James Lapine. Hugh Grant plays Chopin with Judy Davis as George Sand. This one concentrates on the tempestuous relationship between these two or, as tempestuous as Hugh Grant could deliver. A weekend in the country, Sand’s acquisition of the composer, an unexpected duel, and off to Majorca. Pretty to look at. Davis has a good time. Amazon Prime

Franz Liszt Song Without End – 1960 Directed by Charles Vidor, then George Cukor. Dirk Bogarde is Liszt. With Capucine and Patricia Morison as George Sand. Forty musical selections were performed by The Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dreadful script. Amazon Prime

Johann Strauss and Family The Great Waltz – 1972 Directed by Andrew L. Stone. Horst Bucholtz, Mary Costa, Nigel Patrick. Forty years of The Waltz King and his family, including a Johann III, born to Strauss senior’s mistress, who proves himself despite scandal. Rise of the name and music, further generational affairs, and blackmail. Very Hollywood. A remake of a 1938 feature with Luise Rainer, Fernand Gravet, Miliza Korjus. Both Amazon Prime

Ludwig van Beethoven – Immortal Beloved – 1994 with an intense Gary Oldman playing the composer and Jeroen Krabbe as Beethoven’s friend/assistant, Anton Schindler. After the Master dies, Schindler finds three letters addressed only to Unsterbliche Geliebte =“immortal beloved” and is determined to deliver them. He tracks down important women in Beethoven’s life, one of whom the film declares had his child. Through flashbacks, Schindler discovers the mystery woman’s identity. Though the missives existed, in fact, identification remains conjecture. Evocative. Amazon Prime

Ludwig van Beethoven – Copying Beethoven – 2006 Directed by Agnieszka Holland. Beethoven’s last years are manifest by the excellent Ed Harris. Diane Kruger plays young, music school copyist, Anna Holtz, who has great insight into her employer’s music and patience with his loneliness, depression, volatility, and deafness. Because she’s a woman, visitors think of her as a maid or prostitute, while the composer grows not only to rely on Anna, but to respect her talent.

Thoughtlessly disparaged, Anna leaves. Beethoven pleads with her to come back. We see the girl conducting from within the orchestra of his last concert with Beethoven copying her gestures. Uh huh. “The character of Anna is likely based at least partially on Karl Holtz, a young violinist and copyist who befriended Beethoven.” Ah, Hollywood. A good story, though farfetched.

Igor Stravinski – Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky 2009 a French language film based on the novel, Coco and Igor by Chris Greenhaigh. Directed by Jan Kounen. This centers on a rumored affair between the two famous protagonists with Anna Mouglalais as Chanel, Mads Mikkelsen as Stravinsky.

Chanel attends and is impressed by The Rite of Spring. Seven years later, she offers the admired composer, his wife and children, use of her villa outside Paris. The gesture coincides with the tragic death of her British lover. An affair begins. The film hypothesizes great effect on one another’s creativity. Atmospheric. Nijinsky and Diaghilev are both personified. Manages to escape Hollywood fabulosity. Amazon Prime

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Amadeus – 1984 Directed by Milos Forman. Adapted by Peter Shaffer from his stage play. Described by its writer as a “fantasia,” the film is a lavishly produced, fictional tale about an ambitious musician to the court of Emperor Joseph II,  Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham, Best Actor Academy Award), his jealous reaction to, and undermining of upstart Mozart (Tom Hulce) who seems to exhale compositions.

Mozart is played as a screeching, tantrum-throwing, child/man with prodigious talent and extensive influence despite behavior. Fun to watch. Amazon Prime

Maria Anna Mozart – Mozart’s Sister – 2010 A French language film Written and Directed by Rene Feret. A small, delicate film about Mozart’s older sister (by three years), Nanneri (Marie Feret), an accomplished harpsichordist and singer relegated to her brother’s shadow at first by parental command and then his immense popularity. Nanneri becomes friends with Princess Louise through whom she meets Louis, Dauphin of France. She and the Dauphin have a relationship which must, perforce, dissolve when he marries out of duty. The women conjecture what might have been had Nanneri been born a man.

Top photo: Bigstock

About Alix Cohen (816 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.