Amazon’s TV Pilot ‘Mozart in the Jungle,’ with Joshua Bell and Malcolm McDowell, Is a Tale of Sex, Drugs and…Classical Music?

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Amazon’s TV Pilot ‘Mozart in the Jungle,’ with Joshua Bell and Malcolm McDowell, Is a Tale of Sex, Drugs and…Classical Music?

Amazon Studios’ ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ pilot was inspired by professional oboist Blair Tindall’s 2005 book of the same name. (Photo : Creative Commons)

Amazon Studios recently filmed a pilot episode of Mozart in the Jungle, a proposed web video series that looks beyond classical music’s image of polished perfection to reveal behind-the-scenes stories full of sex, drama and political infighting.

Violinist Joshua Bell makes a cameo appearance in this pilot episode, playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. Other notable cast members include Malcolm McDowell of Clockwork Orange fame, who plays a conductor in this episode, and singer Bernadette Peters.

The pilot was inspired by Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, oboist Blair Tindall’s 2005 memoir of her professional career in New York, playing numerous high-profile gigs with ensembles including the New York Philharmonic and the orchestras of Broadway shows.

Tindall’s book is a story of the insanely competitive freelance scene in New York in the 1980s and 90s, where too many musicians compete for too few jobs, most of which offer no health insurance or job security. Tindall describes musicians who trade sex and drugs for more lucrative gigs, the possibility of winning a permanent spot in a major symphony orchestra or a rare solo recording contract.

Amazon’s pilot, created by Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Alex Timbers, focuses on two characters at very different points in their careers: a young oboist, played by Lola Kirke, on the verge of professional success in New York; and an older, established conductor (McDowell) whose career is threatened by a younger, good-looking rival. (Corinne Ramey of the Wall Street Journal points out that this younger conductor, played by Gael García Bernal, bears a passing resemblance to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Gustavo Dudamel.)

“It’s an excellent and fun cast,” said Paul Weitz, the pilot’s director and executive producer. “They all enjoyed stepping through the looking glass into characters who are obsessed with a very different discipline.”

The pilot, recently filmed in Manhattan and Purchase, N.Y., will debut on Prime Instant Video in early 2014. When a pilot is released online, visitors are invited to watch, provide feedback and help determine which pilots should be produced as series to air exclusively on Prime Instant Video and Amazon’s LOVEFiLM in the UK.

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Joshua Bell appears in the pilot episode Mozart In The Jungle