The Red Baton

The Red Baton

Original title: The Red Baton

Genre: Documentary
France, 2007, 90'
Directed by: Bruno Monsaingeon
Story of Russian composers Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke who spent most of their lives struggling against a vast government machine that wanted to crush them into conformity. Story of Tikhon Khrennikov and the Composers’ Union created to serve the Stalinist regime.

From 1917 to 1990, the Soviet Union was the locus of a fascinating paradox which this film highlights: In a context of extreme material and psychological hardship, even terror, there flowered some of the richest, most intense musical activity of the twentieth century. Brilliant performers, major composers, great orchestras exercised their art during these 70 years in dangerous and precarious conditions that were sometimes grotesque, always grueling. The story of this period is the subject of our film, told by those who lived through it, and foremost among them, the Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Gennady Rozhdestvensky, born in 1931 to a conductor father and a singer mother, stood at the heart of this epic : Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Schnittke all dedicated work to him, he premiered such major works as Prokofiev’s 4th Symphony, Shostakovich’s opera “The Nose”, based on Gogol, and symphonies by Schnittke. He has worked with the greatest performers, among them Oistrakh, Gillels, Richter and Rostropovich. He also survived the tyranny of the all-powerful Composers Union, the absurdities of Gosconcert, the first tours abroad, the persecution of Jewish musicians, the musical dictates of Stalin and Zhdanov, the insidious day-to-day terror… Oral accounts, archives and music are the ingredients with which we have recreated this extraordinary artistic and historical fresco.


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