Listening through the Lens: The Christopher Nupen Films – 3 October 2021 – 3/10/2021 – BBC Four

A tribute to Christopher Nupen, who became Britain’s first independent television producer in the 1960s at the dawn of the documentary era. It is also the story of how the talents of a golden generation of artists were forever preserved on film. Nupen came from an unlikely background in South Africa and ‘ticked none of the boxes’, but seizing upon the emerging camera technology and his unique access, he filmed classical music in a completely new and intimate way that broke down the barriers between artists and their public. As a result, this documentary is also an important story about the history of music on television and the great artists who collaborated on the films.

Now 86, Nupen reflects on 75 productions about artists and composers spanning more than 50 years. His body of work convincingly enforces his conviction that television is capable of remembering artists in a way that no other medium can equal. Oxford philosopher and historian Sir Isaiah Berlin described Nupen’s films as being ‘at just about the highest level which television is capable of reaching’.

Listening through the Lens cherry-picks examples of Christopher Nupen’s best work between 1966 and 2017. When he started, he instinctively blended documentary and musical performance to create a new genre of film. He filmed musicians at close quarters in their natural environment, where they have most to offer. Television picked up the exuberant spirit of the new generation and carried it far and wide. The effects were dramatic and brought countless numbers of people to music for the first time.

A musician himself, Nupen’s musical friends were among the most-renowned artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Capturing their unique talents on film, we relive sublime historical moments with the likes of Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, Andrès Segovia, John Williams, Nathan Milstein, Placido Domingo, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Evgeny Kissin and Daniil Trifonov.

As Nupen’s experience grew, he tackled musical ideas and the lives of the great composers. His films represent a single-minded dedication to share the power of music that will leave a legacy of lasting value.

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