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Schumann at Pier2: An audiovisual journey through the symphonic universe of Robert Schumann

October 26, 2012

The award-winning concert film debuts at Berlin's Kino International movie theater on October 26. Produced by Deutsche Welle and partners, Schumann at Pier2 offers a fresh take on Robert Schumann’s symphonies.

08.2012 DW Feature Schumann at Pier2 Konzerte 1

Experience Robert Schumann as you have never heard or seen him before! This was precisely what conductor Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen had in mind. In cooperation with Deutsche Welle, Unitel Classica and Radio Bremen, they set out to do just that: "We wanted to show how music comes to life," says Järvi. The interpretation by the conductor and the orchestra along with the visual design of the four concert recordings and the 98-minute concert film present a fresh, contemporary take on Schumann’s symphonies.

The TV crew selected an unconventional location for the concert and TV production: Pier2 - a converted dockyard building in the northern German city of Bremen. Over several days, Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen presented all four Schumann symphonies to a public audience at this location. Against the industrial backdrop, eight HD cameras, a dolly, a crane and remote-control technology were deployed to record the concert. The result: footage of the Schumann symphonies as never seen before. These recordings feature as an important basis for the 98-minute film, in which the conductor and musicians talk in detail about their work, the composer and the interpretation of Schumann’s symphonies."It's a film for people who would otherwise not be interested in classical music," says DW’s Christian Berger, who directed the production. Just this month, the TV production won the Czech Television Prize at the International Television Festival Golden Prague 2012. The concert film was also screened at the Montreal World Film Festival - one of the most prestigious festivals in North America. Schumann at Pier2 follows DW’s multi-award winning music documentary The Beethoven Project, which was also directed by Christian Berger.

Eine Werft in Bremen, wo der DW Film Schumann at Pier 2 von Christian Berger gedreht wurde. Copyright: DW 26.06.2012
DW documentary "Schumann at Pier2" logoImage: DW

Berger says: “We tried to get as close as possible to what's happening on stage and to film from the perspective of the musicians. The communication between the conductor and the orchestra needs to be comprehensible. It's often the small moments, a look or a gesture, which enable the music to be better understood."

In contrast to conventional concerts where different lighting and scenic design are adopted for every symphony, the filming for Schumann at Pier2 was simply done in a studio using a white cove, bright lighting with just music. In the film, conductor Paavo Järvi and selected orchestra members explain important passages of the symphonies and give background information about Robert Schumann's life. The film also gives exclusive insight into the rehearsals and shows pivotal extracts of the symphonies. This is how a contemporary audiovisual journey through the symphonic universe of Robert Schumann came into being. "It's fascinating, understandable and entertaining. A classic outside the ivory tower, and music television accessible for both classical music lovers and those new to the genre," says Berger.

"If you devote yourself wholeheartedly to this music, have the courage to really get to know what’s behind it, and forget a bit of the so-called traditions of classical music, you will very quickly see just how breathtaking and powerfully moving Schumann's music is," says Järvi.

Schumann at Pier2 is the latest edition in a number of highly-regarded music productions by DW film teams, including Classical Masterpieces (2006), The Promise of Music (2008) and The Beethoven Project (2010).

Broadcasting times

Schumann at Pier2 will be broadcast by Deutsche Welle in two 42-minute parts, on November 4 and 11, on its In Focus program in German, English, Spanish and Arabic worldwide.

Arte, the German-French cultural broadcaster, will present a 52-minute film on November 4 titled Schumann@PIER2 - 3 School Students 4 Symphonies with a special focus on the concert. The film shows not only the work of the orchestra and extracts of the concert recordings, but also the experiences of three Bremen school students when they first encountered classical music at Pier2.

Classica, the first digital TV channel for classical music, will broadcast the concert recordings of the four symphonies on November 5 in Germany and 20 other countries.

On November 5, a DVD box set with three DVDs, as well as a Blu-ray disc, will be released by C Major Entertainment label. The media contains both Christian Berger’s music documentation and the concert recordings of all four Schumann symphonies.

Starting November 4, Schumann at Pier2 will also be accessible online as video on demand at Deutsche Welle’s website www.dw.de/in-focus.