A BAFTA-winning documentarist, Nupen’s pioneering footage presented intimate portraits of the lives of classical musicians
The renowned South African filmmaker Christopher Nupen, whose documentaries focused on musicians such as Jacqueline du Pré and Vladimir Ashkenazy, has passed away aged 88 following a long illness. Nupen will be remembered as the pioneer of a new style of music documentary — one which explored the lives and personalities of musicians in tandem with their playing.
Born in South Africa, Nupen was the son of a Norwegian-born test cricketer. After completing his law degree, Nupen relocated to the United Kingdom to take up a job at the BBC. His first music documentary was titled High Festival in Siena, and this endeavor made such an impression on his superiors that they offered Nupen the opportunity to begin making documentaries full-time.
In 1968, Nupen founded his own company, Allegro Films, where he worked on more than 80 different documentaries over the course of his career. One of the most prominent films was The Trout, which gave insight into the lifestyles and personalities of the players it followed — as well as inviting audiences into their chamber music rehearsals.
“Music and documentary are two very different disciplines, with different imperatives, different tempi, different constructional needs, and different objectives,” Nupen said of the birth of his style. “So it’s not so easy to marry them.”
“But everything changes in this world, and what had not been possible before suddenly became gloriously possible, because of new circumstances,” he added. “New, silent cameras were invented that made a different kind of film possible.”
“A new generation of musicians came along, with superabundant talent and a different attitude to the world from that of their predecessors.”
You can re-visit Nupen’s filmography on the Allegro Films website.
Our condolences to Mr. Nupen’s family, friends, and colleagues.