It was early in the morning at the International Conference Center (國際會議中心) and French concert violinist, filmmaker and writer Bruno Monsaingeon was excited about his first visit to Taipei to attend the first International Public Television Screening Conference (INPUT 2006) in Asia held earlier this month.
Here in Taipei to present his works and share his views on filmmaking at INPUT, which showcased 83 public television programs from 37 countries, Monsaingeon is a familiar name to people who collect classical music DVDs. For the past 30 years, the versatile artist has worked on and directed films with major contemporary classical musicians including Yehudi Menuhin, Sviatoslav Richter, Glenn Gould, Paul Tortelier, Nadia Boulanger and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, among many others. The gray-haired artist is not only a devoted musician but an accomplished director who conveys the power of music through film.
Ensconced in a room away from the bustling conference lobby, the modest and courteous Monsaingeon began talking about his life-long love affair with classical music: "The first sad thing about my life is the fact that I was born to this world. I figured I had to direct my life towards a meaningful path to take advantage of this tragedy. I was taken by music at a very early age, around four when I heard Yehudi Menuhin playing."
Twelve years later, Monsain-geon seized the chance to attend classes taught by Menuhin, who is considered by many as the 20th century's greatest violinist. Their life-long friendship and association led to numerous film productions such as the highly acclaimed Menuhin in China and Yehudi Menuhin: Violin of the Century, a personal documentary on the US-born violinist made to celebrate the artist's 80th birthday.
A slice of genius: Bruno Monsaingeon's Glenn Gould Hereafter is currently being screened at The Imprint of Sound vs. The Conversation of Sound and Image
Despite his artistic partnership with Menuhin, it is Monsaingeon's remarkable camaraderie with Canadian pianist Glenn Gould that has become legendary. Their relationship began in 1971 when Monsaingeon was hired to play violin for a series of TV programs on the history of classical music. After one-year of shooting experience, the young musician started toying with the idea of doing a project of his own, and the reclusive musician Gould came to mind. Back then, Gould was still an unheard-of figure in Europe, having declined invitations to perform and severed his connections with the outside world since 1964.
Monsaingeon discovered Gould's music in Moscow in 1965. "I went to a record store that had a very small collection of classical music. So I bought all the records and among them there was one copy of Gould's album.
The first time I listened to Gould's music, I heard a voice saying `come and follow me.' It was a transcendent and communing experience. I was totally over-whelmed and blown away," Monsaingeon recalled.
So in 1971, Monsaingeon wrote a letter to Gould, and a few months later, the solitary musician replied with a 26-page letter. After exchanging views, he invited Monsaingeon to meet him in Toronto. "It was the middle of the summer, Gould came to my room wearing an over coat, gloves, scarf, sunglasses and snow boots. I leaned forward to shake his hand, but Gould immediately bounded back. Later I found out that physical contact was intolerable for him. We started talking in the early afternoon and Gould left the room around 6am the next morning," Monsaingeon said.