Everything that is wrong with „Mozart in the Jungle“, Season 2, Episode 4: „Touché, Maestro, Touché“
Episode 4: Touché, Maestro, Touché
So we’re onto season 2 of “Mozart in the Jungle” now! MIJ is a great show – it has perfect casting, witty scripts, great actors…and screenwriters who try to unsuccessfully imagine how the classical music scene works. Actually it sometimes even adds to the fun that they don’t have a clue, as we become witnesses to scenes and dialogue that would never happen in real life. Isn’t that what TV is about?
But as it is fun to nitpick here is a rundown of all the mistakes in season 2, episode by episode….
1) Ok, the movement that Dermot Mulroney (the cellist) makes at 1:04 is very, very weird. Is this an outtake that they used? On the other hand I have to say that his cello playing – faking is so far the most convincing musician imitation that we had in the series. Perhaps he really took lessons?
2) The applause gets even lauder than the one for the soloist at 1:38 when the orchestra gets up. Very unusual – and kind of insulting to the soloist. Dermot should be sulking.
3) “I see you’ve been working on your molto sul ponticello” is quite a strange comment to make by Rodrigo (sul ponticello just means you bow closer to the bridge on a string instrument). It’s like saying “I see you’ve been working on your hammer lifting skills” to a building worker. But perhaps that’s exactly the joke.
4) What a nice cellist – giving individual compliments to players after the gig (who he seems to remember by name as well). Most modern cellists immediately vanish to their dressing room immediately – the concert is usually not finished after they play and they either go to the restaurant already or take a plane to the next city.
5) “Your performance tonight was magnificent” (2:30). Eh…Rodrigo didn’t actually “perform”, he only waved a baton.
6) Rodrigo’s assistant’s behaviour is plain bizarre – carrying the cookie tray wherever the maestro goes, bowing deeply when the cellist talks to him. If only real life assistants where like that – usually they are upstarts who would love nothing more than taking the place of the conductor.
7) And again – why does the show seem to end after the cello concerto? It is extremely uncommon to put instrumental concertos at the end of a show, but Rodrigo seems to love doing that again and again…
8) 3:35 “The East Germans with their obsession of Urtext”. Ok, allow me a small historical excursion here: Even though the attempt to go back to the facsimile (composer’s manuscript) sources when creating new editions of classical works can be indeed traced to the Peters-Verlag in Leipzig the word “Urtext” was actually first used by the Henle-Verlag from Munich (not in East Germany). There was never a particular obsession with “Urtext” in East Germany, in fact the publishers there had usually difficulties to look at particular source material because of the isolation of East Germany in DDR times. “Urtext” was and is employed by publishers all over Europe, not particularly in East Germany. Boring historical excursion end.
9) 3:45 The cellist greets and kisses Cynthia as if he hasn’t seen her in ages, but in fact they just performed on stage together (including at least 2 rehearsals before the show). Has he just walked by her with a blank face until then?
10) I love the idea of Immanuel Ax and Lang Lang playing games in this seedy bar, but why is Hayley dumbstruck when she talks to Ax but basically is easy going next to Lang Lang? Ax is the better pianist, that’s why How much did Lang Lang’s agency pay for the ping pong paddle shot, I wonder?
11) Malcolm McDowell, it’s always fun watching you!
12) 11:10, Hayley doesn’t recognize Joshua Bell? He just played with her orchestra last season! Oh, the memory of drug-addled musicians…
13) The timer in the background of the two Maestros drug-hazed conversation creates all kinds of continuity problems. At 13:13 it say 2:52, at 13:15 it says 9:53, at 13:17 it says 10:00. It seems like they have entered another dimension altogether.
14) I love how drug-fueled Rodrigo imagines conducting the oboe section when there are actually no oboes playing in the music (19:25)
15) 27:20: kudos to Lang Lang really performing this on a bad upright-piano, wrong notes and dodgy sound included. Impressive showmanship! It’s always good if these shows contain stretches of really live recorded music (like “Tremé”), and this is the case here.
16) And kudos to Jason Schwartzman for directing one of the most experimental episodes so far!
17) But again: the idea of high-class and famous musicians like Bell, Lang Lang, Ax, etc. meeting up by chance in a New York bar and spending the evening together for such a long time is quite ludicrous. Even if they had played a concert together (which in this combo would be weird) they would probably have to catch a plane or something. The life of a classical musician is not as glamorous and easy-going as “Mozart in the Jungle” makes it out to be…
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About your number 12. Joshua Bell did play with the NY orchestra in the first episode, but, remember, Hayley wasn’t part of it yet, so, I think in this episode it was indeed the first time Hayley got to see Joshua Bell.
Dermot Mulroney is actually a classically trained cellist.