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Mademoiselle. DVD. A film by Bruno Monsaingeon. [France]: Medici Arts: Ideale Audience International. 2007, 1977. DVD5DM41. $25.99.

This recently released DVD of Bruno Monsaingeon's film about Nadia Boulanger's approaches to teaching, students, and musical taste, is little changed from its original 1977 production. Although it lacks the original's iconic opening, a clip from the movie Love Story in which Boulanger is mentioned, the remaining material provides a brief glimpse into Boulanger's studio, and in particular the famous Wednesday classes held at her Paris home.

Viewers are created to nearly an hour of footage of Boulanger working with an assortment of students on works by Mozart, Stravinsky, Schumann, and Bach. Filmed just two vi-,its before Boulanger's death in 1979, and before her heath began to de-cline seriously, the documentary captures aspects of Boulanger at her intellectual peak as well as showing her as she often was during her last years. In the former, we see her use of the Socratic method in group teaching as she cross-examines a class of students during an analysis of Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze. While seated for the lesson, she is animated, snatching the pianist's hands away from the keyboard to ask about the progressions that have just taken place, asking the students to sing the melodic line, and pushing them to dig past the obvious answers to her sometime--and perhaps deliberately--vague questions to find meaning and structure beyond the basics of the work. During the same session, though, we see glimpses of the older woman in a moment of reverie during Mozart's Fantasie in C minor in which she dreamily narrates the harmonic events of the first movement as they go by. Here she is clearly speaking more to herself than the students clustered around her, and her commentary rarely goes beyond marking the large-scale events of the work, noting a modulation here, a cadence there, the return of a motif.

The film is too short to serve as an in-depth portrait of Boulanger either as a teacher or as a champion of new music during the twentieth century, although interviews with Igor Markevitch and Leonard Bernstein allude to her promotion of Stravinsky and the interest she took in young American composers during her long career. An interview with Monsaingeon interpolated through the film touches on her belief in God as the creator of musical gift in individuals, and her belief that musicians so gifted have a responsibility to pass on and further that knowledge for others, as she has.

The DVD's packaging and accompanying booklet make it clear that Mademoiselle has not been updated since its 197V release, and unfortunately the transfer for this release is rather poor. Especially disappointing is the lack of an audio remastering; the sound fades in and out, and worse, there is considerable distortion in the music that is played, making listening to the excerpts and performances in the film almost painful. Nonetheless, Mademoiselle is an interesting if by no means comprehensive record of Boulanger's last years of teaching.



Drexel Hill Pennsylvania

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Author:Leonard, Kendra Preston
Article Type:Video recording review
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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