Friday 10 July 2020

And Another One

Having recently become (not without a degree of reluctance) a Netflix subscriber, I've been watching a much praised four-parter called Unorthodox, about a young girl who escapes a notably repressive Hasidic community in New York and manages to find a new life in Berlin. Shira Haas gives a terrific performance as the girl, Esty (Esther), a role that keeps her most of the time on the brink of tears, and with good reason. The intimate portrait of life in her Orthodox community, complete with Yiddish dialogue, is vivid and often startling (and I hope doesn't give the casual viewer the impression  that all Orthodox communities are like this one). Other elements in the story are less convincing, especially after Esty gets to Berlin and a thriller-style chase plot takes over; it's well enough done, but doesn't bear much examination, or offer much more than any other girl-in-jeopardy scenario. The group of music students she somewhat improbably falls in with are a carefully 'diverse' bunch, barely even sketched in, let alone characterised, and the plotline that leads to her auditioning for a prestigious music school stretches credibility to something near breaking point. However, at the audition, Esty opens her mouth and launches into a song that had been her grandmother's favourite (in another life, in Hungary) – and it's Schubert's 'An Die Musik', and at that point my resistance crumbled. And it crumbled further when she followed it with something better suited to her mezzo-soprano voice, the Jewish wedding song 'Mi Bon Siach'...
For me, 'An Die Musik' sounds best when sung by a baritone, or even a bass-baritone – which gives me sufficient excuse to play yet again Hans Hotter's exquisite rendition:

That's Gerald Moore on the piano. At the end of his farewell concert at the Royal Festival Hall in 1967, Moore came out on stage alone and played the piano part of 'An Die Musik'. There can't have been many dry eyes in the house. 


  1. I recommend 'Shtisel' on Netflix - a much more absorbing series about an Orthodox community, set in Israel. It's touchingly humane, sad and funny. Shira Haas takes a leading role in the series: she's riveting.

  2. Thanks for the tip Mary – I'll look out for that...

  3. we enjoyed Unorthodox - exactly as you describe Nige, the New York stuff was great, the Berlin bits were rather iffy, but all in all entertaining and a cut above most netflix stuff. My Netflix recommendation for you would be Fargo, seasons 1+2 - very good!

  4. Oh gosh yes – Fargo. I saw the first series, but missed the 2nd. Could be time to catch up... Thanks Worm.