A wide array of classical music films, generally available at public libraries and through major booksellers.
Full-Length Feature Films
LES CHORISTES (The Chorus)
Miramax, currently in theatres, in French with subtitles, 95 min. PG-13.
When M. Mathieu becomes the supervisor at a repressive reform school in France in 1948, things change and difficult students find a new outlet through song and the new school choir.
MUSIC OF THE HEART
Miramax/Walt Disney, VHS/DVD, 124 mins, ages 12 and up. Rated PG.
Determined to make a difference, Roberta Guaspari overcomes the skepticism of everyone who doesn't think she should be teaching violin to students in a tough inner-city neighborhood to found an exceptional music program in Harlem. Despite its success, however, budget cuts threaten to shut the venture down. Her answer? A fund-raising concert at Carnegie Hall featuring her incredible students.
Disney Studios, VHS/DVD, ages 4 and up. Rated G.
Disney's classic film combines spectacular animation and storytelling with works from the classical music repertoire. Donald Duck makes a memorable appearance to the accompaniment of Pomp and Circumstance by Elgar and Mickey Mouse stars in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, a scene taken from the earlier version of this movie. Also featured is a unique rendition of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
SOUND OF MUSIC
Fox Home Entertainment, VHD/DVD, ages 5 and up. Rated G.
Based on a true story of the Austrian Trapp family, this classic movie features Julie Andrews as the nanny who encourages the group to sing, sing, sing.
Lions Gate Home Entertainment, VHS/DVD, 109 mins, 12 and up. Rated PG.
Musicologist Dr. Lily Penleric is a student of English folk ballads. After a humiliating failure at her college, she travels to rural Appalachia where she hears -- and records -- outstanding folk music straight from the old country. The tunes are great, the scenery beautiful and the people of the mountains unique.
New Line Studios, VHS/DVD, ages 12 and up. Rated PG-13.
Shine tells the story of real-life classical pianist David Helfgott, an Australian who rose to international prominence as a young prodigy only to suffer a psychological collapse as a result of abuse by his father. The movie beautifully and emotionally relates Helfgott's effort to stage a comeback as an adult in a concert that features Rachmaninoff's incomparable Piano Concerto No. 3.
MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS
Hollywood Pictures, VHS/DVD, 143 mins, ages 10 and up. Rated PG.
Every school should have a Mr. Holland on its faculty to be sure that music is taught properly. Holland is a true musician with dreams of becoming a famous composer. However, reality and a pregnant wife dictate that he take a job as a high school music teacher. Frustrated at first, and angry, in time he realizes the impact his work has on the lives of his young students.
BEETHOVEN LIVES UPSTAIRS
The Children's Group, VHS/DVD, ages 5 and up, 52 mins.
Christoph, a young boy living in 18th century Vienna, at first resents the eccentric new tenant in the upstairs apartment. However, as their relationship develops, he slowly comes to understand Beethoven's genius and the importance of his music. An award-winning family film.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN'S YOUNG PEOPLE'S CONCERTS
Kultur Video, VHS, ages 5 and up.
From 1958 through 1973, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic inspired young and old with his Young People's Concerts. Using narrative and music, Bernstein demonstrated the power and beauty of classical music in understandable terms. These programs helped to turn an entire generation into music lovers.
There are ten tapes to this concert series and 25 concerts, on such topics as:
- What Does Music Mean?
- What Makes Music Symphonic?
- What Is Classical Music?
- What Is Orchestration?
- What is Melody?
FROM MAO TO MOZART
New Video Group, VHS/DVD, ages 8 and up. Rated G.
In 1979, Isaac Stern visited China. This movie
records the concerts and master classes he gave while there.
Stern amply demonstrates his great love for music as he works
energetically and passionately with his audiences, both young
and old. Jian Wang, a young cellist, also performs.
MR. BACH COMES TO CALL
The Children’s Group – VHS/DVD – ages 5
and up – 54 mins
A new film from the makers of Beethoven
Lives Upstairs. Mr. Bach arrives unexpectedly at the
house of a piano student, Elizabeth. Along with three of Bach’s
choirboys, she learns about his life and listens to 20 pieces
of his music, moving from skepticism to respect for Bach’s
good-humored nature and musical brilliance.
REMEMBERING JACQUELINE DU PRE
End/Emi Classics, VHS, ages 8 and up.
Jacqueline Du Pre, who died tragically at a young age from multiple sclerosis, was one of the great cellists of this century. This movie documents her career, including interviews with Jacqueline herself and her teachers plus clips from some of her famous performances with such other luminaries as her husband, Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zuckerman and Zubin Mehta. The featured work is Elgar's Cello Concerto. Jackie's story is inspiring to musicians and non-musicians alike, who will want to watch this film more than once.
PETER AND THE WOLF
Disney Studios, VHS, ages 4 and up. Rated G.
The Russian folk tale of Peter and the Wolf, set to music by Prokofiev, is the theme of this classic Disney film. It tells most endearingly the story of a little boy and his small band of animals, each illustrated by a different instrument, who set off bravely to seek and conquer the big bad wolf. Narrated by Sterling Holloway, this is truly a movie for those of all ages.
PETER USTINOV AND THE ORCHESTRA
Newsound, VHS, ages 5 and up.
This film is in three sections. Peter Ustinov first describes the different emotions and feelings that music can elicit. He then demonstrates the sounds of the various instruments of the orchestra, using great examples from the classical repertoire as illustrations. Accompanied by clever cartoons, this is an excellent educational video.
Sony Classics, VHS, ages 6-12, 50 mins.
There are several films in this series that discuss various composers, their lives and their music:
- Handel's Last Chance
- Bizet's Dream
- Liszt's Rhapsody
- Strauss: The King of ¾ Time
- Rossini's Ghost
- Bach's Fight for Freedom
MARSALIS ON MUSIC
Sony Wonder, VHS, ages 8 and up.
Wynton Marsalis, one of the finest trumpet players of both classical music and jazz around, talks about and demonstrates various aspects of music with the help of his jazz band and students at the Tanglewood Music Center led by Seiji Ozawa. His approach to music is delightful, entertaining and informative. There are four tapes in this series:
- Tackling the Monster describes Marsalis' twelve-step method of practicing
- Why Toes Tap discusses music theory
- Listening for Clues teaches students about musical form
- Sousa to Satchmo talks about the history and development of jazz.
BIOGRAPHY - MOZART
BIOGRAPHY - BEETHOVEN
A and E Entertainment, VHS, ages 10 and up.
These videos present interesting and informative biographies of two of the most famous classical musicians of all time.
There are also available many excellent videos of performances of classical music, including symphonies, operas and ballets. These will probably appeal to a more mature audience.