Now Playing: “Playing With Fire: Jeannette Sorrell and the Mysteries of Conducting”

A new documentary by Allan Miller featuring the work of Apollo’s Fire and its founding conductor Jeannette Sorrell is in theaters now. The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that the film “dwells on what makes conductor Jeannette Sorrell unique as a leader, on her way of sculpting, shaping, and getting to the dramatic heart of every phrase…Even more illuminating are sections devoted to conducting. If you’ve ever wondered why orchestras need conductors and what, exactly, takes place up on that podium, “Playing With Fire” will answer all your questions, and then some…In any case, if there’s one reason to see “Playing With Fire,” it’s why we go to concerts in the first place: for the music. The soundtrack, simply put, is stunning, a rich medley of extended clips from performances of works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, and others. Nothing else suggests playing with fire or conveys the magic of artful conducting half so well as these.”

Early Music America delves into the story, describing “Sorrell’s tool kit of harpsichord cues, singing, gestures, and analogies emerges during well-shot rehearsal footage. The story of conducting within the story of this conductor culminates in beautifully edited and vividly recorded concerts. The “burningly clear conception of what every note means and how they relate to each other,” which Sorrell summarizes as part of the conductor’s work, remains an unspoken constant…Sorrell’s conducting offers both an animated and enlightening visual motif. Every melodic and harmonic curve is expressed in sweeping baton strokes and rocking physicality. She looks moved by the music even as she moves it. The music in turn shows the energy, lyricism, and rhetorical shapeliness she elicits from Apollo’s Fire and as guest conductor with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in music by Mozart, Telemann, Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, and Handel.”

Watch the trailer.