Austria/Germany, 2009, 93 minutes
Sun, Apr 25 / 4:00 / PFA / PIAN25P
Thu, Apr 29 / 6:00 / Kabuki / PIAN29K
Sun, May 02 / 1:15 / Kabuki / PIAN02K
Concert pianists can be a fussy bunch, but they’re nothing compared to the temperamental demands of a Steinway grand piano. Pianomania gets up close and personal with a group of world famous virtuosos—Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Rudolf Buchbinder, Till Fellner and Pierre-Laurent Aimard—but the real stars of this penetrating documentary are Stefan Knüpfer, the earnest piano tuner doubling as physician and voice coach, and the beautiful instruments themselves. The film observes Knüpfer over the course of a year as he assembles, tightens and fine-tunes a series of magnificent grand pianos, bringing a rare spirit of ingenuity, knowledge and extraordinary competence to his work. Knüpfer’s yearlong collaboration with Pierre-Laurent Aimard is at the center of the film as the pianist prepares to record his interpretation of Bach’s contrapuntal masterpiece, The Art of the Fugue. Together the two sit at the chosen instrument as Knüpfer handles his tools with a surgeon’s precision and adjusts the 230 strings of the piano to refine its voice and tonal color. Pianomania also takes viewers into the Hamburg headquarters of Steinway & Sons, where we glimpse pianos being made and overhear fascinating conversations between Knüpfer and company representatives, many of whom descend from generations of piano makers. With an attentive, languorous pace, the film allows Knüpfer and associates the space to think, ponder and hold forth on camera, providing an inside look into a rarefied world of time-honored culture, exquisite artistry and, of course, astonishingly executed classical music.
Presented in association with San Francisco Performances. GGA Documentary Feature Contender.