5 Romantic and Modern Composer Biopics
As we learned in the post, Music & Arts at the Movies – Composer Biopics for Movie Night, great music and the movies have gone together since the earliest days of cinema. Much of the "classical" music, we listen to and love today is composed for the screen, and arguable the most popular composer of today is John Williams (b. Feb, 8 1832), known for his music scores which have earned him—as of this writing—52 Academy Award nominations and five wins! We explored William's life and work in the post Happy Star Wars Day! The Man Behind Its Music – John Williams.
In today's post, we are not talking about the composers behind movie music but about movies that have brought composers to the big screen. I am listing five composer biopics featuring orchestral and chamber music composers from the Romantic (c. 1830–1920) and the Modern (c. 1890 to 1975) eras. This list is, of course, incomplete and is chronological order of when the featured composer(s) lived. Look for future music and arts movies to be featured in future posts!
I have included places where you can watch these movies in the U.S.A. for free legally in the descriptions. Search Just Watch for the film's name for all available streaming services (including subscription and pay services) available in your region. For more information about each individual film and its makers, see its Internet Movie Database (IMDB) listing given in Resources.
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Watch the official U.S. trailer in the video above.
1. The Devil's Violinist
[2013, 2h 2min, English, R]
Stream for Free on Tubi (with ads) or rent/buy through your preferred online service.
Niccolò Paganini (Oct. 27, 1782 – May 27, 1840) Italian violinist, guitarist, and composer
The Film: Violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini is no stranger to scandal. Sensational rumors surround him wherever he goes. In fact, his manager Urbani makes sure of this. To publicize Paganini's London performances, Urbani conjures rumors and fans the flames of local morality protestors to create a storm of press. Paganini seeks refuge in the home of the London conductor and impresario John Watson and becomes interested in Watson's daughter, Charlotte, who performs with Paganini as a singer and is very talented in her own right. Urbani fears losing control over Paganini and launches a diabolical plan.
The History: Niccolò Paganini was an Italian viola virtuoso and composer who was also an accomplished guitarist. He was renowned across Europe and was a 19th century version of a rock star. Rumors surrounded him, including one that he had sold his soul to the devil to play the violin as he did—a rumor, which age him notoriety and helped propel his career. In fact, he played up the "Devil's Violinist" rumors by dressing in head-to-toe black and arrives at concerts in a black carriage pulled by four black horses (as depicted in the film.)
Paganini had a weakness for gambling, womanizing, and over-consumption of alcohol and the latter had ill-effects on his health. He never married but did have a son, Achille (July 23, 1825 – 1895), with his longtime partner, vocalist Antonia Bianchi. The two accompanied him on his tours. There was some controversy surrounding the relationship between him and a young vocalist, Charlotte Watson, who was su