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WATCH: 'Béla Fleck: How to Write a Banjo Concerto' Documentary with Nashville Symphony Orchestra [TRAILER]

By K. Young k.young@classicalite.com on Apr 25, 2015 06:23 PM EDT

Béla Fleck's thrilling new documentary film, Béla Fleck: How to Write a Banjo Concerto, follows that instrument's trailblazer (and, lest we forget, 15-time GRAMMY winner) through one of his most challenging musical journeys--down deep into the heart of the symphony orchestra. And Classicalites will be equally thrilled to know the doc is now available on iTunes.

As The Hollywood Reporter duy notes, it's a "moving and joyous portrait of a talented musician intent on challenging himself and growing mightily in the process." Moreover, the Fleck film, which he also co-directs with Sascha Paladino, chronicles the musician's year-long struggle to compose a banjo concerto for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. "Béla emerges as a touchingly insecure, self-depricating figure," says THR, and the film "should prove inspirational to struggling musicians of all stripes."

Having seen the full thing, nope, I could not agree more.

Widely considered the most virtuosic banjo players in the Western world, indeed, Béla Anton Leoš Fleck has long experimented with stretching his instrument's musical vocabulary. But considering Fleck's bereft of any real prior experience crafting orchestral music--no formal training, no fluency in reading or writing standard musical notation--his ambitious venture has proven to be a particular daunting undertaking.

The film begins before Fleck has ever written a note or bar and concludes, over a year later, with his sold-out concert premiere with the 80-piece Nashville Symphony. While Fleck's hard work culminates with generous excerpts of the piece's premiere that go remarkably well, according to Fleck, himself, "I played it perfectly a lot, but not always on stage."

Check out the trailer below:

Béla Fleck: How to Write a Banjo Concerto features fellow banjo greats Earl Scruggs and Abigail Washburn (Fleck's wife), as well as a wide range of performers: bassist Edgar Meyer, Punch Brother Chris Thile, Scientology's own Chick Corea. The film also delves into Fleck's none too reported on past, including the father he never knew growing up that named him after Béla Bartok, Antonin Dvořák and Leoš Janáček, respectively.

Composing his symphonic piece not only paves new creative pathways for Fleck, it becomes a cathartic experience, forcing him to confront deep-seated personal issues.

Once again, Classicalites, I cannot recommend this one enough.

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TagsBela Fleck, How to Write a Banjo Concerto, Nashville Symphony, Bartok, Bela Bartok, Antonin Dvorak, Leoš Janáček

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