Chess Rhapsodies – compiled by Lucio Etruscus

5/21/2009 – Chess in the movies and on television – how often we have seen fleeting snippets or thematic scenes. But now an Italian chess fan has put together a large number of them as four "rhapsodies", elegantly edited and set to music. They run, in chronological order, from 1925 to 2008. The music, truly beautiful, is by the exceptional Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica. Take the time to enjoy this treat.

Chess Rhapsodies – compiled by Lucio Etruscus

Here is an outstanding compilation of chess scenes from movies and television series, elegantly edited and set to beautiful classical music by Lucio from Rome, Italy. We are highly impressed by the cutting to music, quite apart from the logistics of finding all the clips. The four rhapsodies are in chronological order. The first starts in 1925, the last ends in 2005 (the fourth "chess in telefilms" rhapsody starts in 1966 and ends in 2008). All four are highly enjoyable.


1. Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" by Sergei Rachmaninov


2. The Gipsy Maid (La Zingarella) by Giuseppe Verdi


3. Sarabande by George Handel


4. Croatian Rhapsody by Tonči Huljić

While watching the videos we recognized dozens and dozens of actors. With the help of Lucio we are collecting a list of all the films featured in the four rhapsodies, and all the actors visible in them. If you want to help in the process please send in your list, in this form:

R#1 0:55 - Lolita, James Mason, Shelley Winters
R#4 0:17 - Columbo, The Most Dangerous Match, Laurence Harvey, Peter Falk

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The music accompanying these Chess Rhapsody videos is by an extraordinary Croatian pianist who deserves his own piece here.

Maksim Mrvica

Maksim Mrvica was born in Šibenik, a small but beautiful medieval town on Croatia’s Adriatic Coast. It wasn’t long before it became obvious to Maksim’s teachers that he had a rare talent, and the boy was enrolled in Šibenik’s state music school. When he was 15 war broke out in Croatia and life became almost unbearable for the Mrvica family. Bombs fell almost constantly on Šibenik. Maksim recalls: “There were more than 1,000 grenades a day. At one point there were seven whole days when we stayed in the basement and didn’t see the sun. But you got used to it: you had to go on living.”

For Maksim, living meant playing the piano. He would meet his teacher Marija Sekso in the basement of Šibenik’s music school and forget the war, losing himself in the music for hours at a time. As well as grenades, there was the constant threat of being attacked by Serbian snipers – any time spent outside was a danger. For three years the whole family slept each night on the concrete floor of the shelter in their basement.

Eventually a light appeared at the end of the tunnel. Maksim entered his first competition in 1993, practising feverishly to reach the high standards he knew were expected of him. War still raged in Šibenik, but there was peace in Zagreb, where the competition was held. The 18-year-old Maksim had already charmed the judge and audience just by turning up but, once he played, the applause was purely for the music. The judge stopped the competition after Maksim’s performance, immediately announcing him as the winner.

Maksim went on to study in Zagreb with Vladimir Krpan, one of the country’s most revered music professors, then to the Ferenc Liszt conservatoire in Budapest and finally to Paris before returning to Croatia to record his first album Gestures in 2000. He had modest hopes for the record, but it surpassed all expectations, becoming one of the fastest selling albums ever released in Croatia and winning four Porin awards.

In 2001 Maksim met Tonči Huljić, a musician and composer who not only wrote some original pieces for the young pianist (and continues to do so) but introduced him to the music impresario Mel Bush.

Bush had been looking for a classical pianist for some time; having masterminded the success of the all-girl string quartet Bond he was convinced that there was huge potential for a pianist to break into the classical/pop crossover market, but he hadn’t been able to find the right person. On meeting Maksim he was immediately impressed by his charisma and signed him on the spot after hearing him play just one piece.

Maksim is married to his childhood sweetheart Ana, and the couple have a daughter named LeeLoo (after Milla Jojovovich’s character in The Fifth Element). This may come as a disappointment to our female readers, 90% of whom are bound to be seriously smitten by him after watching the following performances – as will be about 20% of our male audience.


Maksim Mrvica: Rachmaninov-Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumble Bee – truly incredible!


Maksim Mrvica playing the Second Hungarian Rhapsody live at the Roundhouse, London. Excellent performance!

There is plenty more by Maksim on YouTube. If you still have the energy you can watch the following version of the Hungarian Rhapsody, with a very different pianist. It won an Oscar and did more for general education in classical music than a million hours in school music classes. The introduction is the Chopin Prelude No. 24.


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