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View Full Version : Pollini, Emperor concerto & Lisztomania


euphony131
01-29-2001, 06:21 AM
I've got B's 5th concerto with Maurizio Pollini on piano and conducted by Karl Bohm (part of DG's Complete Beethoven Edition) in which you can hear Pollini excitedly "har-umphing" to certain high points as he plays. When I first picked up on it I thought -- "Whoa! Is this Glenn Gloud???" As Gloud is well-known to have made vocal sounds as he played. (I think his Goldberg Variations are to die for.)

Does anyone else have this CD? Frankly, it doesn't bother me at all. On the contrary, it adds a measure of excitement -- a pianist with such unrestrained passion. I certainly don't want to hear "grunts" and "moans" all the time, but I think it's fine for a gifted pianist to sometimes wear his emotions on his sleeve. Reminds us of how human we all are -- we can't help but to be taken up by the music.

Now if we can just bring back the days of "Lisztomania" we'll be set for a Renaissance!

On that note -- what I'd really, really, really love to see are piano recitals that allow an audience to see the rapid flutters of a pianist's hands. Have a couple of cameras set up around the guy with one overhead for the "sky-cam" shot then a huge back-screen showing multi-angles of the virtuoso at work! How many times have we been needlessly denied the pleasure of actually SEEING a pianist as he performs? Now don't tell me that somehow detracts from the work! Hogwash!

The only reason they didn't do it in the 19th century was because they didn't have the technology. I can't believe Beethoven and those that followed -- particularly Liszt -- would never have done such a thing even if they could! I think such piano giants would want the whole world to see their hands flying across the keyboard!

People think nothing of watching and savoring a rock guitarist ripping away at his strings, but for some crazy reason it's taboo to show even one iota of the finesse involved in piano playing! HUH?????? (Yeah, that's right...do everything you can to make Classical Music as boring as possible. But if holy-than-thou, ultra-conservative Art Patrons are hell-bent on their anachronistic ways than they shouldn't be surprised when Classical Music ceases to exist, because nobody under 95 wants to go to their grandma & grandpa sleep-a-thon.)

Sigh. If only I was a millionare; Beethoven would be touring the World right now.

PS: Sorry to sound a bit caustic, but gosh-darnit! -- I get so frustrated sometimes.

PDG
01-29-2001, 10:21 AM
Euphony,

I agree that the Pollini Emperor on DG is fab; it`s certainly better than the much vaunted Fleisher/Szell Emperor on Sony, where the piano bass is almost inaudible in the latter stages of the rondo. The Pollini `fill-up`, the Choral Fantasy, is also very powerful.

I must disagree, however, about Pollini`s "singing". He`s not playing "Roll out the Barrel", for goodness` sake! Next time he steps out onto the concert platform, I hope he is well & truly gagged (shades of the late, great Victor Borge?). Now that WOULD look funny on your giant screen!!

euphony131
01-31-2001, 12:49 AM
Originally posted by PDG:

I must disagree, however, about Pollini`s "singing". He`s not playing "Roll out the Barrel", for goodness` sake! Next time he steps out onto the concert platform, I hope he is well & truly gagged -- !!


Actually, he only "sings" or hum-grunts rarely and you have to be really listening to catch it. I didn't think it excessive at all.

Besides, if all we want is technical perfection than we might as well listen to a computer, but if human passion is to heard we should make allowances for such human "displays." I believe that's a large part of the problem plaguing today's world of CM -- all this focus on getting the notes right but without the heart. Just let it roll, let it go, bring it on -- C'MON!

And this problem only alludes to the still greater problem -- that of the controlling forces of Classical Music (CM): Upper-income, aging grandparents who want to maintain CM as their own exclusive vehicle by which to thumb their noses at Philistines. Forget about making a CM concert robust, exciting, full of heart and attractive to the Young, no, these folks just want a place to sleep off the stresses of being married to the same person for 50 years.

I don't wish to sound cruel, but the only remedy to the prosaic, stifling pall that covers CM may be to just wait for these "controllers" to "pass-on," thus allowing New Blood to enter and revitalize a dying industry.

I know for a fact that I'm not the only one. Those of my generation (30) and younger who enjoy CM mostly feel the same way. Give anyone of us 20 million dollars and in two months we'll make Beethoven a household name with record sales approaching Double-Platinum. You'll see guys like Micheal Tilson Thomas or Evgeny Kissin on Letterman or SNL. You'll have girls wanting to date pianists. You'll have a rush of applicants to conservatories around the world. You'll have CM videos on MTV. You'll see the greatest interest for CM since the day Beethoven premiered his Nineth.

Serge
02-02-2001, 07:56 AM
Soon enough, soon enough!

Pollini's "singing" brings back memories of Gould. I can take such vocalizations either way, but I think the ear must get easily distracted by those non-instrumental sounds. I have a recent 50th anniversary Marlboro Festival release (Sony) that includes on disc 2 Dvorak's string quintet. All throughout it, you can hear what sounds like raspy breathing or fabric rubbing against itself. It got somewhat annoying after awhile, even though the closeness of the instruments recorded was marvelous.

Peter
02-02-2001, 10:30 AM
Originally posted by euphony131:


Besides, if all we want is technical perfection than we might as well listen to a computer, but if human passion is to heard we should make allowances for such human "displays." I believe that's a large part of the problem plaguing today's world of CM -- all this focus on getting the notes right but without the heart. Just let it roll, let it go, bring it on -- C'MON!

.

I understand where you're coming from, but you can't really have a truly musical performance without technical mastery - the two go together. This is why music such as Beethoven's sonatas is so damn hard to bring off, because the level of control required demands an artist of the highest calibre. There is also some contradiction in your remarks Euphony - you vault Liszt to the skies - surely one of the greatest technicians ever!

euphony131
02-02-2001, 08:37 PM
Originally posted by Peter:
There is also some contradiction in your remarks Euphony - you vault Liszt to the skies - surely one of the greatest technicians ever!


Sure, he was a great technician, absolutely, but he also knew how to play to a crowd, how to be electric, and stir up a frenzy. That's what we need. That's what we're missing. Just put it out there man! Don't be so stuffy with your starched collar -- sway to the music, hum, wear a black cloak, keep your hands in fur-lined gloves, have women swoon for you, be eccentric, be romantic, be DIFFERENT -- whatever, just win 'em over!

Berlioz probably put it best when he described the effect he wanted his music to make on a sleepy, bored public: "like a grenade going off in an Ambassador's drawing-room."

Vladimir Horowitz (in my opinion, the last Romantic pianist) admitted he made mistakes but if he played everything Level and Perfect than there wouldn't be room for "dynamic" interpretations -- it would all be cold and lifeless. Certainly you have to have technical ability to begin with to pull things off with that kind of panache -- but once you have then by god why not just go ALLLLLL OUT?! Toss that grenade! And see CM become reborned.

Chris
02-02-2001, 09:19 PM
I still say that's pointless, because if they don't like the music for what it is, then their love of it isn't real anyway.

Peter
02-02-2001, 11:19 PM
Originally posted by euphony131:

Certainly you have to have technical ability to begin with to pull things off with that kind of panache -- but once you have then by god why not just go ALLLLLL OUT?! Toss that grenade! And see CM become reborned.

Surely it depends on what you're playing ! - Obviously if it's the Liszt B minor sonata or his Totentanz you want to release the fireworks and go for it, but there are many works that require a much more intimate approach - Schubert Impromptus for example or a Mozart sonata, even most Beethoven sonatas (which is why you'll find they were rarely part of a Liszt recital ). Liszt was very much criticised for the very things you advocate: showmanship and terrific virtuosity at the expense of musicality. I'm not belittling Liszt or his style here, I am just saying that your approach is only suitable for certain kinds of music - Liszt/Berlioz/Wagner fine, but it wouldn't work with Haydn/Mozart/Schubert - maybe in some Beethoven.

------------------
'Man know thyself'

chrisg
02-03-2001, 12:05 AM
Vladimir Horowitz (in my opinion, the last Romantic pianist) admitted he made mistakes but if he played everything Level and Perfect than there wouldn't be room for "dynamic" interpretations -- it would all be cold and lifeless. Certainly you have to have technical ability to begin with to pull things off with that kind of panache -- but once you have then by god why not just go
ALLLLLL OUT?!

e131,

Other than Horowitz, who else are you listening to that fits the bill? Don't limit yourself to Beethoven either. I'm a great fan of flamethrower piano playing, and may have some suggestions for you. Even I have my limits though, and agree with Peter except when he qualifies Beethoven with a "maybe."
Not all by any means, just some.

cg

euphony131
02-03-2001, 04:08 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:

Other than Horowitz, who else are you listening to that fits the bill?



Glenn Gould...and if we want to get really nostalgic -- a certain pianist named Ludwig Van whose improvisations by all accounts were without par. Who bothers to improvise anymore? Who bothers with anything but just playing the notes methodically and with no mistakes? Boring.

I remember reading/hearing how Beethoven used to pair up against traveling piano up-starts and run them out of town after annihilating them in piano "shoot-outs" (aka: contests). One would develop a theme, the other would expand on it and give another theme, exchanging hands until one of them just couldn't match the other's brilliance. All this while throngs of people watched in delight.

Oh, why can't we have such glorious days again? Out in public parks, squares, right up in people's faces! Let them stop and gasp at the sheer FUN of CM. Let `em revel in it. "Oh? Is this what you call Classical Music? Why it's not boring at all!" "Is that by Beethoven? Wow, it's actually exciting! I didn't know!"

Instead, everything that is Art is reduced to a science, and instead of impromptu displays and frenetic energy we have stodgy, funeral-like morbidity. Is it any wonder why Young People could care less about our "decrepit" music?

We need to lob a "grenade" into the audience and stir their hearts.

chrisg
02-03-2001, 05:02 AM
Glenn Gould certainly does fill the bill. I have his Bach WTC and English Suites, great stuff and completely individual. I had an LP of his LvB Piano Concerto No. 1 that I remember as being pretty wild; very fast and with a bizarre cadenza that had nothing to do with Beethoven, but was fun anyway.

For Beethoven, have you heard any Sviatoslav Richter? Emil Gilels?

How about Gyorgy Cziffra? His Liszt in incomparable, played the way I imagine Liszt himself played it. He recorded a fair amount of Chopin as well, his set of the Etudes is famous, or some would say, infamous. His own transcriptions are musical high wire acts that defy description, a combination of staggering virtuosity and completely fearless swagger. To say he plays on the edge isn't strong enough, there are many moments where he sounds like he's going to spiral out of control at any moment. I think you'd love this guy.

cg

Peter
02-03-2001, 10:23 AM
Originally posted by euphony131:

Glenn Gould...and if we want to get really nostalgic -- a certain pianist named Ludwig Van whose improvisations by all accounts were without par. Who bothers to improvise anymore?

Well Glen Gould would be a problem for your audience as he didn't give recitals and restricted himself to the recording studio - hardly the thing to captivate a young audience.You could argue his method was one of the first to turn music clinical - although I admire his artistry I think his playing is always the same - lacking in variety.

I agree with you about the lost art of improvisation and I do agree that a lot of todays academies churn out technicians not musicians - I said in a previous post that the two go together and indeed they do, one without the other is a pointless experience.

I would have thought that Bernstein was the sort of musician you had in mind - full of passion and a very colourful character (both in private and public!)- he made a series of tv programmes in the '60s for young people explaining classical music and it was a great success. He was a musician in the true sense, being composer/performer and conductor - able also to cross musical boundaries with jazz. Another of my great heroes was Solti - a truly wonderful man and an inspiration to young and old alike. Jacqueline du pre was another example of a captivating artist - I never had the good fortune to see her live, but I have the film of her playing the Elgar concerto and I have never been so spell bound in my life.

What I am really saying is that no gimmicks such as strobe lighting, dancing girls, fireworks, gladiatorial combats etc... can cover up for the lack of a great artist - the people I have mentioned achieved all you say - what we need today is real personalities such as these - artists who really can communicate.

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'Man know thyself'

[This message has been edited by Peter (edited 02-03-2001).]

euphony131
02-05-2001, 05:04 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:

How about Gyorgy Cziffra? -- his set of the Etudes is famous, or some would say, infamous -- To say he plays on the edge isn't strong enough, there are many moments where he sounds like he's going to spiral out of control at any moment. I think you'd love this guy.


Thanks Chris. I'll have to check this guy out. Has he done any Beethoven as well? I've just ordered Evgeny Kissin's "Legendary 1984 Concert in Moscow," his debut as a 12-year old. How would you judge Kissin's playing? Haven't heard much of him myself. I'm going to have to e-mail you about all this.

And Peter, I know what you're saying -- yes, we need more dynamic personalities. Exactly. A dynamic personality coupled with a dynamic presentation, now THAT would be dynamite.

I didn't mention Bernstein and others as we were talking mainly about pianists with swagger. Not that Bernstein was such a bad pianist himself.

chrisg
02-06-2001, 02:45 AM
Regarding Cziffra, I said earlier that his Liszt sounds like I imagine Liszt would have played it. The Chopin Etudes I mentioned are much the same, Chopin as I imagine Liszt would have played it. The little Beethoven I've seen from him is in an 8 disc EMI set I have; some minor variation pieces, a polonaise (op.89), a hilarious Rondo "Rage Over a Lost Penny," and one disc of Sonatas with Nos. 8, 10, 12, and 13. It's all wonderful, full of personality without ever to my ears crossing the line of good taste, as it would be easy to argue he did with Chopin. The "Pathetique" is quite different from what I expected; on the slow side in I, but dark and dramatic, slow and dreamy in II, beautifully Romantic, and plenty of fire in the finale. A great performance. No. 10 is superb, full of humor that others just miss. Alfredo Perl is very good here too, but comparing Schnabel in the Andante, and Roberts everywhere, is like hearing a great joke told by someone who has no business telling jokes.

What little I've heard of Kissin isn't enough to have an opinion, other than he has all the technical ammunition to develop into one of the greats.

To try some Cziffra, I recommend his entry in the Philips "Great Pianists" series, which has the complete Chopin Etudes and a great Liszt recital. Feel free to email me, I'd be happy to put together some samplers on CDR for you. Based on your posts here, I think I've got some stuff you'd appreciate.

Chris