The Beethoven Project

Classical music fans will delight in ancillary, but crossover potential looks minimal.

Well lensed, aud-friendly docu “The Beethoven Project” follows the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, conducted by the charismatic Paavo Jarvi, as the chamber orchestra ambitiously sets out to record all nine of the master’s symphonies, capped by a four-day live performance of the entire cycle at the prestigious Bonn Beethoven Fest. Jarvi animatedly discusses the characteristics of the different symphonies as one might describe one’s children’s traits, and orchestra members enthusiastically isolate passages to explain a given tonality or tempo variation. Classical music fans will delight in ancillary, but crossover potential looks minimal.

The Kammerphilharmonie, housed in a high school whose pupils are encouraged to interact, began as a student orchestra; the small, 39-member ensemble run as partnership where all players participate as shareholders and decision-makers. Helmer Christian Berger (not to be confused with Michael Haneke’s regular d.p.) crosscuts between rehearsals and performances for illustrative passages supporting maestro Jarvi’s interpretations of Beethoven. Berger’s cutaways to, say, a violist or oboist are shot against the same dramatic white backdrop that often frames Jarvi, reflecting the importance of the instrumentalists’ input and stressing the uniquely collective nature of the enterprise. Use of architecture is striking.

The Beethoven Project


  • Production: A Deutsch Welle, Unitel Classica presentation of a Bernhard Fleischer, Moving Images production. (International sales: Unitel Classica, Oberhaching, Germany.) Produced by Bernhard Fleischer. Directed by Christian Berger.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD), Heiko Rahnenefuhrer; editor, Stefan Kobe. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Documentaries of the World), Sept. 5, 2010. Running time: 93 MIN.
  • With: With: Paavo Jarvi, Beate Weis, Stefan Rapp, Ulrich Konig, Friederike Latzko, Elke Schulze Hockelmann. (English, German dialogue)
  • Music By: