With no background in classical music, the film-maker Phil Grabsky found himself enthralled by a performance of Mozart's Idomeneo at Glyndebourne. But a question nagged at him. "Is this historical personality really like the figure depicted in Milos Forman's film Amadeus?" he wondered.
Two years on, he has the answer, in his new documentary film, In Search of Mozart. To disentangle the real Mozart from the myths, Grabsky conducted more than 100 interviews, asking some basic questions. Many of today's leading Mozart performers helped him to piece together the jigsaw.
"I found that the term 'genius' was really unhelpful. Mozart's success was much more attributable to his determination, his openness to countless musical influences, his shaping by his parents and associates, the circumstances in which he found himself, the opportunities he grasped and," Grabsky stresses, "his utter dedication to his art."
Driving through Europe, retracing Mozart's steps, Grabsky worked mainly alone, thanks to new technology. The result is remarkably comprehensive, drawing on the composer's letters and his music, from the fledgling Andante K1a to the late Requiem K626. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, with Sam West speaking Mozart's words, it mixes clips of period and modern performance. The issue that most divided performers and academics was the extent to which the composer's life coloured his music.
In Search of Mozart is a model of its kind. The footage of Mozart's haunts are contemporary, fleshed out with people and images of today, which gives the portrait immediacy and relevance. Coinciding with the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth, Grabsky's documentary is fresh, direct and communicative, bringing Mozart vividly alive, even for those who think they already know everything about him.
4 January (0845 120 7550), and on Five on 10, 17 and 24 January and on DVD ( www.insearchof mozart.com)Reuse content