Movies and shows Oboe Players Love and Hate
But also all kinds of musicians!
Welcome to the enchanting world of movies, episodic series and classical music! In this blog post, we embark on a journey through the realms of cinema, exploring the movies that have struck a chord with serious and armature musicians (especially oboists) and those that have left us yearning for more reeds, more realistic hand or mouth positions or maybe we wish they had left the oboe out of this one entirely. I’ll also touch on great movies that may not have gotten as much public attention but get into some interesting aspects of Classical Music and its lesser known history. I’ll also be rating some of these so let me know if you agree or disagree!
Recent Classical Music Movies and Shows - (does not include August Rush)
The most salient pop media darling that brought the oboe into the popular zeitgeist was, of course, Mozart in the Jungle based on the book and memories written by Blair Tindall in 2005. The series captures the gritty side of classical music that audiences and fans may not have considered, but many young musicians are painfully aware of. While many scenes with the oboe are hardly realistic ( like scraping a reed on the way to an audition in a rickshaw), the series highlights many issues in classical music like sexism, exploitation, and unethical behavior in the industry.
This comedic-drama series follows the fictional New York Symphony Orchestra and its eccentric conductor Rodrigo De Souza. The music in the series is diverse and captivating, showcasing both classical and contemporary compositions. While the historical accuracy takes a backseat to the fictional storyline, the quality of the music is commendable. Various classical pieces with oboe solos are performed throughout the series, including Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C major, K. 314.
Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 3/5.
Whiplash” (2014) –
This intense drama follows the ambitious young jazz drummer Andrew Neiman as he strives for perfection under the tutelage of a demanding and abusive instructor, Terence Fletcher.
This film tries to get into the head of music students showcasing the dedication and pursuit of excellence. It is quite shocking that they made a whole movie about Jazz school with no black characters, which may have accidentally been a comment on appropriation or white washing of music history in academia… but probably not…
The quality of the music, particularly the drumming performances, is held to a high standard, but is unconvincing to most actual musicians. The feeling of inadequacy is, sadly, not foreign to me or my peers.
Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 2/5.
“A Late Quartet” (2012) – I saw this movie in high school! I really hated the way they made the young female character seem so superficial, but now that I am older I am glad they touched on some of the power imbalances that plague the industry. This drama revolves around a renowned string quartet facing internal tensions and challenges as they prepare for their 25th-anniversary concert. The film features classical chamber music performances and explores the intricacies of ensemble dynamics.
Some things will stick out to actual musicians and conservatory students- like how Juilliard is more complicated than taking 1 class all semester…. Also there are no oboe players to be found, maybe they just need to buy some reeds here:
The quality of the music is impressive, with compelling string quartet performances. Historical accuracy is maintained. As good as these actors are, much of the fake playing comes off as unconvincing so watch mostly for the story not the concerts.
Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 3/5.
“Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016) – Based on a true story, this comedy-drama portrays the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite with a passion for singing despite her lack of talent. The film incorporates classical music and showcases Jenkins’ determination to pursue her dreams. While the quality of the music intentionally highlights Jenkins’ uniquely terrible singing style, and the historical accuracy is well-maintained. Quality (or not) of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
“The Song of Names” (2019) – This drama follows a man’s quest to discover the fate of his childhood friend, a talented violinist who mysteriously disappears on the eve of his debut concert. The film features classical music, specifically violin compositions, and delves into themes of friendship and loss. The quality of the music is commendable, and historical accuracy is maintained. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
“In the Aisles” (2018) – Although not solely focused on classical musicians, this German drama centers around a young man who finds solace and love while working in a wholesale market. The film incorporates classical music, particularly Johann Strauss II’s compositions, to underscore emotional moments and provide a sense of atmosphere. The quality of the music is good, but historical accuracy is not a central aspect. Quality of music: 3/5, Historical accuracy: 2/5.
Classical Music in Anime
Anime has always been a hotbed of Classical Music nerds but I love the recent trend of classical music and musicians being the main focus! “Sound! Euphonium” (2015-2016) is set in a high school concert band. This anime series follows a group of students as they strive to achieve greatness in their music. While focusing on concert band music rather than classical compositions, the series delivers impressive performances and captures the spirit of ensemble music-making. Historical accuracy is not a key aspect. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 2/5.
“Nodame Cantabile” (2006-2008) – Based on the manga of the same name, this Japanese drama series follows the relationship between two music students at a prestigious music academy in Tokyo. The series features a wide range of classical music, and the performances are exceptional. While some fictional elements are present, the historical accuracy of the music is noteworthy.
This series has a lot of classical music hits! Some of my favorites are: Beethoven – Symphony No. 7: This symphony does not prominently feature an oboe solo.
- Ravel – Piano Concerto in G major: The Juicy English Horn Solo is not always heard in the clip but its there!
- Schubert – Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”: This symphony does not prominently feature an oboe solo.
- Beethoven – Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”: The second movement of this symphony includes a beautiful oboe solo. While every instrument is featured in this one, it can come off like a woodwind feature bonanza!
- Grieg – Peer Gynt Suite No. 1: The suite includes “Morning Mood,” which features an oboe solo in the opening melody.
- Tchaikovsky – Symphony No. 5:
- Beethoven – Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral” this is oboe and clarinet heaven!
Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
Historical Period Pieces( that I wish got more media attention)
- “Amadeus” (1984) – This Academy Award-winning film follows the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, focusing on his relationship with fellow composer Antonio Salieri. The music in the film is exceptional, capturing the brilliance of Mozart’s compositions, and the historical accuracy is commendable. Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
- “Immortal Beloved” (1994) – This biographical drama delves into the life of Ludwig van Beethoven through the eyes of an unknown woman who receives letters written by the composer. The music in the film beautifully showcases Beethoven’s works, and the historical accuracy is generally strong. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
- “Shine” (1996) – Based on the true story of pianist David Helfgott, this film explores his struggles with mental illness and his journey towards rediscovering his passion for music. The music in “Shine” is outstanding, with brilliant performances of classical piano pieces. While the film takes some dramatic liberties, the historical accuracy of the music remains intact. Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 3/5.
- “Copying Beethoven” (2006) – Set in 1824 Vienna, this film imagines a young music student, Anna Holtz, assisting Ludwig van Beethoven during his final years. The music in the film is captivating, predominantly featuring Beethoven’s compositions, and the historical accuracy of the music is notable. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
- “The Pianist” (2002) – A really intense and heart wrenching film based on the memoirs of pianist Władysław Szpilman, this film portrays his survival during World War II in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Though the focus is on Szpilman’s life during the war, the few instances of music present are exceptional and reflective of the time period. The piano music is really great! Historical accuracy is maintained for the music in the film. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
- “Impromptu” (1991) – Set in 1830s France, this comedic romance centers around a love affair between composer Frédéric Chopin and writer George Sand. The film features exquisite performances of Chopin’s music, and the historical accuracy of the music is commendable. Quality of music: 4/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
- “Farinelli” (1994) – Inspired by the life of renowned castrato singer Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, this film explores his career and personal struggles. The music in “Farinelli” is exquisite, highlighting the virtuosity of the castrato voice, and the historical accuracy of the music is well-maintained.
I remember being blown away in music history class about this guy who taught Mozart a lesson and was a super star of his time. Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 5/5.
- “Eroica” (2003) – This film delves into the life of Ludwig van Beethoven during the composition and premiere of his groundbreaking Symphony No. 3, also known as the “Eroica Symphony.” The music in the film is exceptional, showcasing Beethoven’s brilliance, and the historical accuracy is notable. Quality of music: 5/5, Historical accuracy: 4/5.
Did your favorite classical music movie make the list? Let me know if I missed the mark on some of these the truth is there are way too many to keep straight for just one oboe player….