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Tribute to an Exile

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Could the perfect soundtrack to the events of the first half of the twentieth century have gone all but unheard until this very day? A new documentary film, Artur Schnabel: No Place of Exile, compellingly makes that case for its eponymous hero.

The film is directed by Matthew Mishory, a filmmaker from a family of musicians, who knew Schnabel only for his definitive, expressive interpretations of Beethoven’s works for the piano. That changed when Mishory got hooked on Schnabel’s little-known avant-garde compositions by Markus Pawlik, the acclaimed German concert pianist. Through Pawlik, he also learned more of Schnabel’s intriguing biography. “It was clear that this was a major twentieth-century life, musically and otherwise, and that it hadn’t really been explored fully,” Mishory told me. The two men began working on a tribute to Schnabel’s life and music: a concert helmed by Pawlik (with video projections by Mishory) that would, in turn, become part of a film by Mishory. The concert was held at the 2016 Musikfest Berlin. The resulting film premiered earlier this year on Arte and recently began streaming on Amazon. It will also be screened at the Library of Congress in late November, with a concert featuring Schnabel’s works on the following evening (both events are free).

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