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“Maxim Vengerov: Living the Dream” is a wonderful DVD,
released during 2005 on the EMI Classics label. It’s a portrait
of this brilliant Soviet violinist, who decided at the time of filming
to bravely embark on a musical “horizon-broadening” adventure.

The film begins with an adult Vengerov working with conductor
Mstislav Rostropovich at the podium, and the first 25 minutes of
this 50-minute documentary is punctuated with film footage of
Vengerov (1974 – ), at different stages of his childhood and
adolescence. There are interviews with his teacher since
childhood, his parents and fellow violinist, Vadim Repin.

This is all an introduction to the “meat” of this documentary,
namely footage of Vengerov learning to play Jazz violin under
the guidance of noted pedagogue, Didier Lockwood, as well as
learning to dance the Tango. Vengerov puts these skills to use
later, during a performance of the “Viola Tango Rock Concerto,”
written by Benjamin Yusupov. The premiere of this work was
given in Hanover, under the baton of Eiji Oue.

In this piece, Vengerov not only plays an electric five-string
violin and a viola, but also finishes the “Concerto” as a dancer,
while partnered with Tango expert, Christiane Palha. I must say
that judging from the footage, Vengerov acquits himself quite
admirably. “Viola Tango Rock Concerto” is something of a
mixed bag, and to fully “assess” it, I’d have to hear it in its
entirety. Nevertheless, the main point made here was that
Vengerov wished to work outside of his secure and
lucrative comfort zone.

By forcing himself to “think outside of the box,” beginning
from scratch with new types of music and performance
methods, Vengerov (by his own admission) emerged as a
stronger musician overall, and one who could bring new
insights upon his return to standard, Classical repertoire.
I respect this attitude, and I like to think that I apply this
same philosophy to my listening endeavors.

As a bonus on this disc, there is a 14-minute feature
entitled, “Maxim Vengerov in Moscow,” in which he and
pianist Ian Brown perform a wonderful rendition of the
fiendishly difficult “Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 15”
by Henryk Wieniawski. I highly recommend this DVD.

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