Nelsons No 5

Music & Arts
music
52 & 71'
Carmen Cobos
AVROTROS & Cobos Films BV
HD
HD available

In Nelsons No 5, Carmen Cobos’ second feature documentary, the world-renowned Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons – a man who is gentle and modest, but deeply passionate about his craft – takes on the Shostakovich masterpiece together with one of the world’s most celebrated ensembles, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orches­tra.

There are a handful of symphonies that inspire both audiences and performers alike to vertiginous heights of appreciation. It just so hap­pens that three of these are fifth symphonies, composed in turn by the musical titans Mahler, Beethoven and, of course, Shostakovich.

In Nelsons No 5, Carmen Cobos’ second feature documentary, the world-renowned Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons – a man who is gentle and modest, but deeply passionate about his craft – takes on the Shostakovich masterpiece together with one of the world’s most celebrated ensembles, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orches­tra.

In the film we follow the whole process, from his arrival by plane from the US, where he is music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, through rehearsals characterised by Nelsons’ vigour and sensitivity, fi­nally ending with an impressionistic sequence of three performances of the work. In between, the conductor talks about his stark home-life and musical upbringing in Riga, as well as about the profound effect that the music of Shostakovich had on his development as a musician and conductor.

“This is not the comfortable music of capitalism,” he tells the orchestra. “It should be more than beautiful. Aggressive. Icy. The extremes are important in Shostakovich.”

Director Cobos’ camera is curious but not intrusive, and expertly cap­tures the vitality and inquisitiveness of the orchestra both in rehearsal and in the concert auditorium. It follows the maestro Nelsons in reflec­tive mood as he texts home and talks movingly of the young daughter he desperately misses. Cobos also creates a delightful cameo motif for the orchestra’s harpist whose instrument is so prominent within the symphony.

At the end of the film, Nelsons’ work is done and he must leave for an­other guest conducting appearance in Berlin. And like Shostakovich’s symphony the film ends on a major chord. “It ends with a victory,” proclaims the triumphant conductor.