Monday, August 8, 2011: Not-So-Silent

A classic silent film with live music performed by The Berg Orchestra is set for Friday

Not-So-Silent Film
If you like classic film, gorgeous music, a live orchestra, and a historic setting, the Berg Orchestra has just the ticket for you.

On Friday, August 12 the orchestra will perform contemporary classical music to a black-and-white, 1928 silent classic film. “La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc” will be shown, with the orchestra performing, at St George’s Basilica, Prague Castle.

It’s an interesting update on an old classic.

“Not only is the film by Carl Theodor Dreyer itself an icon,” comments the Berg Orchestra’s Eva Kesslová, “but the new music created for it by Lithuanian minimalist Bronius Kutavičius represents an exceptional achievement.” The Prague orchestra was able to present the Czech premiere in March 2009 in collaboration with that year’s Febiofest International Film Festival, only a few months after the music’s world premiere.

The composer, present at the Czech premiere, “was very content with us,” Mrs Kesslová remembers.

All this is interesting, but what’s really amazing is to think about what actually is required for a live orchestra to play a 90-minute music score without an intermission — and with split-second timing. After all, the film goes on, even if a violinist breaks a string or the chime-player comes in a second late.

“It’s a bit of a marathon for everybody,” Mrs Kesslová concedes. “Before the Czech premiere [Berg conductor Peter Vrábel] spent two full weeks with the score and the film deciding what comes where, calculating tempos, and he even communicated with the composer.” Mrs Kesslová says at the world premiere, the Vilnius orchestra actually ran two minutes longer than the film, “but we always ended perfectly together with it!”

Moreover, for such a dramatic film, mechanical timing is not enough. “The conductor has to help the orchestra achieve the free flow of the music – passionate, energetic, or contemplative,” she tells Opus Osm.

You can see a preview of the drama with music at

If you miss the performance in Prague August 12, you’ll have to travel to Catalonia, because the Berg Orchestra will repeat the performance there, along with other concerts as part of its five-day tour of Spain. – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: The Berg Orchestra

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