Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
JAN KOPINSKI - saxophone
STEVE ILIFFE - piano
Walter Ruttmann’s definitive ‘city film’, Berlin : Symphony of a Great City (1927), is a dawn to dusk portrait of 1920s Berlin, combining documentary, abstract and lyrical imagery. With Karl Freund's masterly camerawork and the film's assured editing, BERLIN was hugely successful on its release, and that rarity - a film both popular and avant-garde.
Berlin: Symphony of a Great City contains moments of poetry that have seldom been equalled in film. The lyrical tone is set from the start with the opening shots of a dawn train journey towards the city. A subtle arching of time throughout the acts and seamless editing foreshadows the documentary style of later films. And beneath the immediate sense of objectivity to the film, there are touches of engaging warmth as Ruttman revels in the tapestry of human ingenuity, creativity and flow of life in the big city. The editing and sheer breadth of detail merges the documentary and visual narrative into a masterful film achievement.
Saxophonist Jan Kopinski and pianist Steve Iliffe perform their original score live to the film and follow it’s five acts of the daily diary of a city moving from the rhythmic to the abstract. Mirroring the pace and dazzle of the editing, the music responds to the human curiosity and the wonder of how we find ourselves in the modern world.
Their composing and improvising skills, together with a sense of detail to sound and interaction in performance, bring real empathy to silent films. With new detail appearing each time they perform to it, BERLIN seems to create a subtle poignancy at every viewing.
“Even without the film, this is music that swims in history, somber and richly allusive” - CODA
“Kopinski has a sensitivity to visuals as reflected in other scores he’s performed for silent movies…he evokes Slav folk music, melancholic and lost to an irrecoverable past, but Iliffe's broken chords also reflect the equally lost world of discordant modernism that this brave new era of revolutionary cinema was going to usher in.” - Jazzwise