Stefan Knupfer, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Till Fellner, Julius Drake, Ian Bostridge, Igudesman, Joo
Lilian Franck, Robert Cibis
First Run Features
English/German w/English Subtitles
I have no musical talent.
Heck, half of what Stefan Knupfer says in Pianomania fell on deaf ears. Knupfer, the Chief Technician and Master Tuner for Steinway & Sons in Vienna, has a masterful gift not too far removed from that of a surgeon or a horse whisperer or an artist... He lives out his life dedicated to the unusual task of weaving together world-class musical instruments with some of the world's most famous pianists.
Oh, and he's brilliant. And brilliantly engaging.
Juggling the demands of the pianist, the piano and the piece to be played requires a remarkable enthusiasm that he possesses along with precision skill, infinite patience, the ability to listen to the tiniest of sounds and a gift for observation that remains aware of even the tiniest speck of dirt.
"Everything affects the way they play," Knupfer says as he finds what is likely less dust than I have in my ear at this very moment. Yet, if you're listening when the key is struck before and after you realize that he's right.
When it comes to tuning a piano, he's always right.
As something less than a novice, I found myself most engaged in Pianomania during the film's many encounters between Knupfer and the various artists with which he finds himself working including the highly expressive Lang Lang, the comical Igudesman & Joo and the difficult to please Pierre-Laurent Aimard. To watch these gifted human beings engage in a search for the perfect tone is mesmerizing even for this writer who hasn't a clue what they're really doing.
If you're wanting to watch Pianomania solely for the music, then you might find yourself disappointed as the film is very much about the processes involved in performance rather than the actual performance. Knupfer is endlessly engaging, but the film is about his process and co-directors Lilian Franck and Robert Cibis don't concern themselves with backstory or extraneous storylines.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic