"Five Days in September" transcends puffery to work as a truly exciting record of a major arts group in transition, and how intense personalities inform all aspects of the biz. Presence of heavyweights like Renee Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma, letting their long hair down, should get this into music-minded fests and onto pubcasting outlets everywhere.

An absolutely first-rate classical-music docu, “Five Days in September” transcends puffery to work as a truly exciting record of a major arts group in transition, and how intense personalities inform all aspects of the biz. Presence of heavyweights like Renee Fleming and Yo-Yo Ma, letting their long hair down, should get this into music-minded fests and onto pubcasting outlets everywhere.

Who would think that some of the most charismatic characters around would be found in a docu on the Toronto Symphony Orchestra? But watching handsome, witty musical director Peter Oundjian — who was star fiddler in the Tokyo String Quartet until sidelined by injury — shape up the band at the start of a new season is a memorable treat. Veteran muso helmer Barbara Willis Sweete (a founder of Rhombus Media) takes a verite approach, with only a few spare titles to put the TSO’s first week under Oundjian in context. Handycam visits with front-office mavens, first-chair insiders and rehearsing guests (pianist Emanuel Ax is especially cuddly) are equally intimate, and auds come away with real sense of what it takes to put on this level of show.

Five Days In September

Canada

Production

A Rhombus Media production, in association with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, NRK and Bravo! (International sales: Rhombus Intl., Toronto.) Produced by Jessica Daniel, Barbara Willis Sweete. Executive producer, Niv Fichman. Directed, written by Barbara Willis Sweete.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Milan Podsedly, Anton Van Rooyen; editor, Bruce Lange; music, Beethoven, Chopin, Dvorak, etc. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Canadian Images), Oct. 5, 2005. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Peter Oundjian, Emanuel Ax, Renee Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma.
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