Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

The Master and His Pupil 2003

De meester en zijn leerling

Directed by Sonia Herman Dolz

The Netherlands In Dutch, English and Spanish with English subtitles
87 minutes DigiBeta


Paul van den Bos
Hans Fels
Alejandro Agresti


Andrez de Jong


Paul M. van Brugge


Valery Gergiev
Jason Lai
Alexis Soriano
Otto Tausk


Rotterdam, Sydney 2004


When the Russian maestro Valery Gergiev conducts, he makes the western classical tradition look like a force of nature. We see him in this movie from the perspective of the orchestra and it’s as if every part of him is wired into the music. He’s communicating every nuance of timing, timbre and volume to the players – and to us as well. Sonia Herman Dolz’s brilliantly simple film shows just how easy this isn’t, as she escorts three young conductors – one Spanish, one Dutch, one Anglo-Chinese – through a Gergiev conducting masterclass. They work through Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus, pieces chosen, one assumes, for their furious intensity and rich variety of tone. The master watches and listens, then cajoles, corrects, teases, chastens and encourages his three awed and avid pupils. As he breaks down their inhibitions, pulls their heads out of their scores and compels them to communicate with the players, the handing on of a potent expressive tradition becomes indistinguishable from the transmission of vitality itself. Thrilling. — BG 

“Gergiev himself is a living legend: an unkempt, eccentric and unpredictable virtuoso who commands respect and attention. Described as a ‘madman of music,’ he is the chief conductor and general director of St Petersburg’s Kirov Opera and Mariinsky Theatre. Dolz eloquently translates Gergiev’s complex genius into lucid and accessible ideas. Gripping, comedic and enlightening, The Master and His Pupil presents the creative struggles faced by conductors. For Gergiev’s three young protégés, the challenge becomes finessing the magical art of conducting to convey emotion, risk and excitement.” — Brett Hendrie, Hot Docs