In Rebecca Tansley’s documentary Crossing Rachmaninoff music takes the early lead, as we follow aspiring pianist Flavio Villani through his preparation of Rachmaninoff’s famous Piano Concerto No. 2 for his first ever performance with an orchestra.
Villani is instantly likable and engaging. He is quiet and gentle, clearly driven, completely open and comfortable as he talks about himself and his musical development. Though obviously talented from the start, Villani is no typical “child prodigy”. He has come late to the calling of musicianship at this level, but has found his muse in Rachmaninoff’s Concerto. His infectious enthusiasm and his obvious love for this music sweeps us along with him.
As Villani prepares to perform while staying with his family in Italy, it is clear that in attempting this Concerto he is seeking personal affirmation, just as Rachmaninoff desperately needed, sought and found public affirmation in composing it.
The final performance allows perspectives both visual and emotional to elevate this to a unique piece of filmmaking.
Complementing the musical richness of this story, and expertly woven in to it, the film is also beautiful to watch. From the opening images of the sea, to the fluid motion of Villani’s hands across the keyboard, to recurring themes of food and Italian life, Crossing Rachmaninoff is as much a delight for the senses as it is emotionally compelling. This film treats its audience with respect, and treats them to a feast of music, of images, and of humanity.