The Red Baton
The complete title is The Red Baton, Scenes from Musical Life in Soviet Russia. You will have to subscribe to medici.tv to view it. But if you pay your $10 for a month’s subscription, and only view this one documentary your money will be well spent:
“In the Soviet Union, from 1917 to 1990, in an extremely difficult context, one of terror even, there developed one of the most intense and richest musical environments of the 20th century…“, writes Bruno Monsaingeon. A fascinating mystery that Monsaingeon attempts to elucidate in his film.
This essential period of music history is recounted through conductor Guennadi Rojdestvenski, the last remaining representative of these fabulous performers of the Soviet era (he was born in 1931). He is full of humour and it is a treat to watch him evoke the ban on dissonance in 1948, explain why there are two pages 295 in the biography of Prokofiev published in 1957 and to hear him talk about Tikhon Khrenikov, the terrifying secretary general of the Union of Composers who was in office for forty years…
I can see Soviet influences in Costa Rica, in the statues of the Heroic Workers in the highway roundabouts for example; or the ugly poured concrete building that houses the Public Health Service (CAJA) in downtown San Jose. I even saw it recently in a newspaper photo of the Tica President welcoming the arrival of the Canadian Prime Minister (with schoolchildren waving flags of welcome).
The first person I met in Costa Rica deserves a few words of his own. He was from a rich family in Peru, who sent him to attend college in the US. He attended the U of California, learned the ice cream business, got his American citizenship (he then had a dual citizenship), returned to Peru (at his father’s insistence) and set up a ice cream business there. But the situation deteriorated so badly in Peru he had to leave.
He and his wife (also from Peru) looked for another Latin American country to establish another ice cream business, and decided on Costa Rica. But Costa Rica disappointed them. They sent their daughter to college in the States, and she is now a successful accountant in San Francisco. The last I heard they had retired in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; there they have the social advantages of living in a Latino society, without the practical disadvantages.
I spent time with him as he drove around the Metro Area of Costa Rica conducting his business as best he could – meanwhile pointing out all the disadvantages. His summary was this: “Costa Rica has no future.”
The same could have been said of the Soviet Union – but it still exists in greatly reduced form. Could this be the future of the USA and of its satellite, Costa Rica?