Borletti-Buitoni Trust
14 March 2011

Animating Liszt

by Nino Gvetadze

Monday, 28th of February

It’s early morning in London.  I didn’t sleep well, because of the excitement of the coming day and the rest of the week. Finally the long-awaited production of my Liszt CD is taking shape. Lots of questions in my head, but one thing is for sure: it all feels natural.  It has to be done, there is no doubt about it!

At 9am I have an appointment with photographer Sussie Ahlburg.  A couple of months ago, she booked the location for our photo shoot, a house in London at 33 Portland Place.  Sound familiar? Most of the film The King’s Speech was filmed there.  Just last night the movie received four Oscars so, as you can imagine, suddenly the place has become very popular! Famous or not, it is a beautiful old house with antique furniture that is falling apart, with layer upon layer of wallpaper peeling away revealing many colours from times gone by… it has that atmosphere that helps and awakens your imagination… And there we are, ready to begin!

I am awful at choosing at the best of times.  It was so difficult to have to choose outfits to bring with me to London from Amsterdam … so I didn’t, I just brought them all!well, nearly!

After some hours changing into six different dresses, sitting, standing, laughing, giggling, walking, drinking hot chocolate, freezing and taking lots and lots of pictures, we finally finish.  Lunch is welcome before we head to our second location, The Forge, where Graham Johnston and David Hoskins are waiting for us, ready and set to shoot the video of  Gretchen am Spinnrade.

Very often, during interviews or after concerts people ask me: when you play this or that piece is there a certain image on your mind?  Of course there is an image, but it is always so hard to describe it in a few words.  Music goes far beyond words and the reaction that we get after listening to a certain piece of music can be different for everyone.  That’s why the idea of filming a video of Gretchen am Spinnrade came to my mind. The idea was to emphasize the atmosphere of the piece.  I wanted the film to react to the music visually and create an image that would bring the beautiful melody of Schubert even closer to our hearts. I was very fortunate to meet Graham, the film’s director, who has worked with BBT for a number of years and created beautiful documentaries about BBT winners. Graham suggested using animation in the video and we developed a very interesting idea together. I don’t want to reveal the details and hope that the clip will be a nice surprise for all of us!

Anyway, today we have a very important task to film the beginning and the end of the video, which mainly consists of me walking towards the grand piano and afterwards walking away. It’s incredible to think how many times I have done this before, coming on stage, playing and then leaving without even thinking how to walk, so now when I actually have to walk for the camera six or seven times, I start to be conscious about every step, every move.  Here comes the right and left, right,  left… whatever, just go !!!!  So I walk, and play (synchronized with a playback of my own recording) and after a couple of hours we’re done!

Everyone is so helpful and kind and full of energy, that I decide to ignore the fact that I’m getting tired.  It works well, until the minute I’m back home at my friend Julia’s apartment. I sit down on the bed and can’t move, but have exactly the same kind of feeling that you have after playing a good recital: tired, but happy that I have made another step toward the point which is still so far away, but good to know that it’s getting closer…


Thursday, 10th of March

Got up at seven in the morning… will I ever become a morning person?!! The third day of editing the CD, we need to finish the second half of the Sonata today.

Sitting in the train on my way to the studio I find myself thinking, what is it about the Liszt Sonata that makes it so incredibly special? It grabs you and doesn’t want to let you go. I have been playing this piece since the age of eighteen and believe me, every time I play it, I live through it as if I just discovered its existence. There is no other way, as every single note, every single breath has its meaning and even though it’s known as one of the most technically challenging pieces in the piano literature, there is not a single passage that is written for the sake of virtuosity.

In 2011 the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt. Of course there will be many Liszt CD releases, but I assure you they will all sound different, as the genius of this great composer gives all of us the possibility to tell a unique story – a story which is true and honest, as there is nothing fake about his music.

I arrive in Haarlem, we work for some hours, trying to choose the takes that inspire us. We finish the editing around six o’clock. The work is done, time to let the recording live its own life  – and hopefully a good one.