Life on Jupiter


While many artistic geniuses are at the mercy of mental illness, few can talk about it lucidly. New Yorker Jens Nygaard (who passed away on Sept. 24 of this year at the age of 69, after a protracted battle with bone marrow cancer) walked on both the dark and light sides of the street, while continuing to display a love for and devotion towards music that would profoundly affect those around him. Told by Nygaard and fellow musicians, Life on Jupiter chronicles Nygaard's early life - a child prodigy, Nygaard would later become homeless and was eventually institutionalized before ultimately returning to his musical roots during the early '60s - and tenure as conductor of the renowned Jupiter Symphony (inspired by the NASA mission that photographed the swirling, storm-ravaged planet). The chosen training ground for a number of notable musicians, the Jupiter members counted it as a privilege to make music with the volcanic Nygaard. Watching rehearsal footage is exhilarating and sometimes painful as Nygaard encourages, inspires, cajoles, and occasionally dresses down musicians rehearsing Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. In his rougher moments, Nygaard doesn't come across as a cruel megalomaniac, but as a man who will accept nothing less than the matching of real notes to the music in his head. An inspiring portrait of an inspired artist, Life on Jupiter is highly recommended.

C. Block, Video Librarian

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TV Guide Close Up: The Jupiter Symphony conductor is profiled in this powerful documentary from director Martin Spinelli. The hourlong film features extensive interviews with Jens Nygaard, who unflinchingly discusses his childhood, his career, and his battles with mental illness, homelessness, and bone-marrow cancer. Concert footage is smoothly blended with clips of Nygaard working with several world-class musicians, including violinist Vadim Gluzman, saxophonist Harvey Pittel, cellist Chagit Glaser, and French horn player karl Kramer.  Also included are comments from music critics Martin Bookspan and Harold C. Schonberg. 

—TV Guide