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15 April 2021, 13:08
As well as possessing a rather excellent head of hair, it appears actor Timothée Chalamet is also something of a boy wonder on keys. Watch him playing Bach in ‘Call Me by Your Name’, with absolutely no dubbing.
There’s a wonderful scene in Call Me by Your Name, the critically acclaimed Luca Guadagnino film about a summer of first love, where young Elio plays a lively Bach caprice on piano but keeps changing it to tease Oliver.
“That sounds different, did you change it?” Oliver asks.
“Well, I changed it a little bit,” the younger man (Timothée Chalamet) replies. “I just played it the way Liszt would’ve played it if he altered Bach’s version.”
Oliver asks Elio to play the original version, the one he played on guitar outside. He obliges, but once again plays it with a twist. “I just played it the way Busoni [who did some magnificent Bach transcriptions] would’ve played it if he’d altered Liszt’s version,” Elio explains says.
Finally, he turns back to his family’s Bösendorfer grand and plays it as Bach wrote it. The piece is the charming ‘Allegro’ from the Capriccio in B flat major ‘On the Departure of a Beloved Brother’ which young Bach, as the title suggests, dedicated to his sibling.
Often, while actors will learn to play an instrument for a role to make it appear authentic, the music we hear in the film is actually recorded by a professional. Take Bradley Cooper’s guitar-playing in A Star is Born; he played all the right notes on camera, but to make it believable that he could be a rock star selling out arenas, it’s guitarist Lukas Nelson’s playing that we actually hear on the soundtrack.
But in Call Me by Your Name (unless Timothée’s musical double wants to pipe up now and set the record straight) all the ivory-tickling is one hundred percent Chalamet.
The French-speaking actor took piano lessons, and Italian classes, to prepare himself for playing the prodigious Elio.
Here’s another clip of him tickling the ivories, courtesy of one of the Internet’s many Chalamet devotees:
“And what is wrong with Bach, the way Bach would’ve played it?” Oliver asks as he tries to prod lovestruck Elio into playing the classical guitar version of the Capriccio that he heard outside.
“Bach never wrote it for the guitar,” Elio retorts.
As well as being a dab hand at smart comebacks, Elio is also supposed to be a multi-instrumentalist. So, Chalamet learned just enough guitar to be able to pluck out that same Bach melody.
Now, Chalamet is taking his six-string prowess up a notch for his role in the Bob Dylan biopic Going Electric, which will follow the harmonica-wielding music icon’s journey from folk singer to rock n’ roll star.
It appears so.
In the 2019 Woody Allen romantic comedy A Rainy Day in New York, Chalamet sings the pop standard ‘Everything Happens to Me’ at the piano. His voice is delicate and without pretention, with just a hint of jazzy vibrato at the end of each phrase.
For Chalamet’s next musical project, how about another Busoni-Bach transcription? We’ll just leave the magnificent ‘Chaconne’ here for him to practise…