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Russia's Wonder Children
Directed by Irene Langemann
Produced by Wolfgang Bergmann
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film stillTheir names are Lena, Nikita, Ira and Mitya. They excel at concert performances that would shatter the nerves of adult pianists. Their vibratos, runs and cascading arpeggios are breathtaking. Whether born into a family of musicians like Nikita, or discovered by accident as Lena was, these children stun with ability that is inexplicable. But having inherent talent is just the beginning for these children. It must be reinforced by hours of practice every single day, a long-standing tradition in the former Soviet Union.

During Stalin's reign, music education became an important state mission. Perhaps because of this, no other country has produced as many virtuoso musicians in the 20th Century. Stalin's reign was also the period when the Central Music School (C.M.S.) at the Moscow Conservatory first opened its doors.

The Central Music School was founded in 1932 by Professor Goldenweiser and Heinrich Neuhause. In an interview, Yevgeniy Timakin, one of Russia's greatest piano teachers, recalls the glory years of the 1950's and 1960's. Timakin graduated from CMS in 1940 and like many of his classmates, became a teacher because of travel restrictions. As a teacher he stressed the development of each pupils' individuality. His results are plain to see, as many of his former students are now world-renowned musicians. Archival footage of concerts and recitals at C.M.S. during this period reinforce his recollections of this almost magical period.

Even today, the Central Music School remains the most sought after institution to attend. The teaching methods that produced so many great musicians have not altered. But even musical perfection cannot guarantee a graduate consistent work. Lena, who has performed for Pope John Paul and former U.N. Secretary de Cuellar, is now seventeen. No longer remarkable, she must now compete with the countless first class adult musicians in the world (many of them men, who seem to have an advantage over women).

With contemporary concert footage and rare archival images, and in the words of parents, teachers, former and current students, RUSSIA'S WONDER CHILDREN informs us of the life of a prodigy, of their love for music, and of their will to sacrifice most anything for perfection.

Also available in a 60 minute version

"RUSSIA'S WONDER CHILDREN makes a valuable and unique contribution... The film reveals some truly fascinating facets of early "specialist music education" in Russia. Students and their parents speak openly, sharing their concerns about the nightmares of daily life, the lack of money, the poor living conditions. The film captures the obvious feeling of uncertainty about the future of the country and of its culture."- Professor Alexander Ivashkin, University of London, for Slavic Review

"[RUSSIA'S WONDER CHILDREN] unearths some remarkable archival material… from the era in which the U.S.S.R. aimed to demonstrate its cultural superiority to the world. A subtle critique of the decaying state of music education in post-glasnost Russia."- City Pages

"Impressive... shows the energy necessary to cultivate extraordinary talent."- Berlin Ticket

"Uses archival materials... and well-executed documentary film techniques to examine some of Russia's prodigies with an engaged, caring eye. This video is recommended for music collections in performing arts high school libraries and academic and large public libraries."- Library Journal

"Breathtaking… Awe inspiring."- Booklist

Golden Gate Award, 2000 San Francisco International Film Festival
Certificate of Merit, 2000 San Francisco International Film Festival
2000 New York International Documentary Film Festival
2000 Berlin International Film Festival
2002 Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival (Toronto)

98 minutes / / Color
Russian / English subtitles
Release: 2000
Copyright: 2000

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Also available in a 60 minute version

Subject areas:
Adolescence, Eastern Europe, Education, Music, On 35mm, Russia

Related Links:
Also available for rental on 35mm, please inquire.

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