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Set The Piano Stool On Fire

Set The Piano Stool On Fire

By Patrick Samuel • June 17th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
SET THE PIANO STOOL ON FIRE (DOCUMENTARY)
ZDF

Original release: July 11th, 2011
Running time: 76 minutes

Director: Mark Kidel

Cast: Alfred Brendel, Kit Armstrong

Set The Piano Stool On Fire

At the end of 2008 world renowned classical pianist Alfred Brendel retired from public performance, but before doing so, he took on a young apprentice, the brilliant young prodigy Kit Armstrong. Set The Piano Stool On Fire is a documentary film directed by Mark Kidel that follows them between the time of 2008 and 2009 as Brendel, nearing retirement, passes on his wisdom and experience to his pupil and sets him on the road to becoming one the great composers of our time.

The film begins in January 2008 with Armstrong arriving at Brendel’s home in London to begin his lesson. They greet each other warmly and Armstrong practices Bach’s Toccata in G major BWV 916 while Brendel explains that he always shied away from working with children, but when he heard a CD Armstrong had given him of a performance at the Royal Academy he knew he had to dedicate his time to him, describing his playing as simply “extraordinary”.

At just 19 years old, Armstrong has already played with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, the Bamberger Symphoniker, l’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.

May Armstrong talks about her son being 15 months old when he began learning addition and subtraction and by the age of 2 teaching himself multiplication. Realising his brilliance, she wanted to introduce some music to his life as well and the young Armstrong began to show an aptitude for this as well.

Set The Piano Stool On Fire

Kidel’s documentary is characterised by smooth camera work and clean editing and through that we see a portrait of a friendship that’s both professional and very warm. The shots are well framed and just as important; the sound is captured very well. It’s also filled with many little details that give you further insight into their lives. For example, we see origami figures on Brendel’s piano and on his fireplace mantle and we learn how Armstrong’s used his knowledge to design a computer game. We also get to hear Who Stole My Wasabi, a 2008 song the pupil lovingly composed for his teacher.

As we move on to Brendel’s final recital, he performs F. Liszt’s Au lac de Wallenstadt in the beautiful setting a countryside church. The images and sounds captured here are stunning and incredibly moving. Later on we see Amrstrong practising some more Bach in the church and to watch his finger work on the keys and the look of serenity on his face, there’s never a question as to why these two play music; it’s in them and they simply have to.

Being a self-taught composer who enjoys both classical and contemporary instrumental music, I thoroughly enjoyed Set The Piano Stool On Fire and seeing how music inspires others to not only to learn and play, but to create as well. I think anyone who’s interested in music on a deeper level will also enjoy this. It’s well filmed and a beautiful account of a musical relationship between two generations.

 Set The Piano Stool On Fire

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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