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Playing with Fire


Two-time Academy Award® winning documentary director Allan Miller has completed his newest film, PLAYING WITH FIRE: Jeannette Sorrell and the Mysteries of Conducting. The film tells the story of Grammy-winning conductor Jeannette Sorrell, a vivid interpreter of baroque and classical music.

Early in her career, Sorrell was told by the Julliard School of Music and the Cleveland Orchestra that no one would hire a woman conductor. Energized by these obstacles, Sorrell decided to form her own Baroque orchestra. After several failed attempts she was finally awarded a grant for a first concert. It was a sold-out success, in Cleveland, and Apollo’s Fire, a Baroque period-instrument orchestra was born. Under her inspired leadership, Apollo’s Fire has become internationally admired, with sold-out concerts and successful recordings, including a 2019 Grammy Award.

“I’ve made forty-five films and I’ve worked with great conductors – including Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur and Valery Gergiev,“ said Miller, winner of the Oscar for THE BOLERO, Best Short Feature in 1975, with Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and for “FROM MAO TO MOZART - Isaac Stern in China,” best Feature Length Documentary, in 1979. “They gave me access to their rehearsals and performances, and to much of their life off the podium, but resisted my attempts to probe the source of their genius. It was only when I collaborated with Jeannette Sorrell that I was able to reveal some of the mysteries of the conductor’s art.”

The film follows Sorrell working with her group, Apollo’s Fire, at home in Cleveland, teaching and performing at the Aspen and Tanglewood Music Festivals, and performing with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

In one magical scene, we watch Sorrell study Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. She tells us she has learned to imagine the music as she reads the notes on the page. Miller enables the viewer to hear the Overture with her, as she studies the score at home. Sorrell converts the dots on the printed page into musical phrases which she almost miraculously transforms into the expressive gestures the performing musicans understand.

Jeannette Sorrell is conducting the NY Philharmonic in 4 concerts of Handel's Messiah at Riverside Church on Dec 14, 15, 17, & 18 and will conduct a Q&A after the 8pm screening of the film on Dec 16.


Leonard Nimoy Thalia

Expected Run Time is 70 minutes

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