PDA

View Full Version : Beethoven the Conductor


chrisg
01-27-2001, 02:17 PM
From Harold Schonberg's "The Great Conductors"

"Ignaz von Seyfried has left us a famous and unforgettable description of Beethoven as a conductor: (the italics are mine)

Our master need not be prestented as a model in respect of conducting, and the orchestra always had to take care in order not to be led astray by its mentor, for he had ears only for his own works and was ceaselessly occupied by manifold gesticulations to indicate the desired expression. He often made a downbeat for an accent in the wrong place. He used to suggest a diminuendo by crouching down more and more, and at a pianissimo he would creep almost under the desk. When the volume of sound grew, he rose up also as if out of a stage trap; and with the entrance of the full power of his orchestra he would stand on the tips of his toes almost as big as a giant and waving his arms seemed to soar upwards to the skies. Everything about him was active, not a bit of his body idle, and the man was like a perpetuum mobile. He did not belong to those capricious composers whom no orchesta in the world would satisfy. At times, indeed, he was altogether too considerate and did not even repeat passages that went badly at rehersal. "It will go better next time," he would say. He was very particular about expression, the delicate nuances, the equable distribution of light and shade as well as an effective tempo rubato, and without displaying vexation would discuss them with the individual players. When he observed that the players would follow his intentions and play together with increasing ardor... his face would be transfigured with joy, all his features beamed with pleasure, a pleased smile would play around his lips, and a thundering "Bravi, tutti!" would reward the successful achievement."

I love the language in this account, it reminds me of watching Leonard Bernstein in action. It is impossible for me to believe that the unimaginative phrasing, robotic by the metromone tempos, underpowered and generally souless playing characteristic of so many "authentic" and "traditonal" performances compares to what Beethoven truly indended. Play only what is written? How are "expressiveness", distribution of "light and shade", and (gasp!!) an "effective tempo rubato" written so as to convey the composers full intentions? I presume that the best orchestral players Vienna had to offer could read music, so why the need to discuss them with the individual players?

I can easily imagine Beethoven ranting at the likes of Hogwood, Norrington, Gardiner, etc. that his music needs to be played "with increasing ardor." The fact is that we don't know what a truly "authentic" Beethoven performance sounded like. To claim otherwise ignores much of the evidence. The score and nothing but the score? Based on this account, and plenty of others describing Beethoven's own piano playing, musicians with the ability to interpret the score, such as Furtwangler and Richter, may be much closer to the truth than what passes for authenticy today.

cg

[This message has been edited by chrisg (edited 01-27-2001).]

Serge
01-27-2001, 10:23 PM
You're right in saying there is no way to know what an authentic performance sounded like. We don't have the opportunity to knock on Beethoven's front door and ask him "How exactly did you want us to play this?" or even "Do you suppose future generations could play your music on different instruments or in different styles and still retain the value of your work?". He's gone; all we have is intuition and a few clever ideas.

I think the failure of artistic critique occurs when one who is critiquing is not willing to allow themselves to open up to a new method. All of you certainly know by now my frustration with Rod over his incapacity to see worth in anything outside his closeted collection of musical "truths" and his disdain to our views. I have always tried not to say that one thing is less valuable than another. While I have preferences, I don't attempt, or don't consciously attempt, to proselytize because that falls out of the concept of fairhanded critique and becomes something more sinister: the pontification of a self-serving zealot. Forgive me for thinking that, but try to tell me why I shouldn't.

Beethoven was a flamboyant conductor, and it clearly mirrors a need for his music to be played with equal flamboyancy. How do you define that? Every conductor from Furtwangler to Toscanini to Bernstein to Abbado will determine that differently, and that is where one of the greatest pleasures of a lifetime of classical music appreciation comes from: listening to the almost-infinite span of interpretation.

Rod
01-29-2001, 08:57 AM
Originally posted by Serge:

I think the failure of artistic critique occurs when one who is critiquing is not willing to allow themselves to open up to a new method. All of you certainly know by now my frustration with Rod over his incapacity to see worth in anything outside his closeted collection of musical "truths" and his disdain to our views. I have always tried not to say that one thing is less valuable than another.

There is a good deal of evidence from contemporary performers/music teachers remarks, and also finger indications in early editions of scores to assess use of techniques such as vibrato and rubato in those days, I have read such accounts myself. Also the change technically in the instruments obviously results in the introduction of new techniques not possible on ealrier instruments, and vice versa. The 'collection of truths' is not of my sole invention (I wish it was, then I'd think I was REALLY smart), on the contrary! Regarding the piano, I recommend you read 'Beethoven on Beethoven' by William Newman, who generally (but not totally) sees things the way I do. They stock it in Borders.

Rod

------------------
"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

chrisg
01-29-2001, 04:45 PM
Rod,

Newman's "Beethoven on Beethoven", subtitled "Playing his piano music his way," is a classic case of an author over reaching in his title. I picked this up hoping for some real insights on performance practice in Beethoven's own words, but that gets pretty much shot down by the author on Page one, paragraph two.

"But the point needs to be made at once that only infrequently can one document Beethoven's intentions with hard evidence - that is, with proof in the score itself, or a positive declaration by a trustworthy witness if not by Beethoven. Most of the time one must rely on circumstantial evidence of one sort or another - chiefly on deductions from analysis and reasoning, or from analogous practices in other circumstances. For example, one may hope to determine an appropriate tempo for a piano passage by finding an analogous passage in one of the chamber works that Beethoven marked with his own metronome tempos. But even the circumstantial evidence may be lacking, or may be too slim to accept. Then, since some decision has to be made before a performance can take place, the only answer that remains is an educated guess based on artistic intuition and experience!"

So much for the book's title. Except for the strange remark of "finding an analogous passage" in a chamber work in order to relate it to a piano work, I agree with his conclusion.

Still, there is much of interest in the book, but much of it is beyond the non-musican. Of particular interest to me was the section entitled "Beethoven as a Performing Pianist," with contemporary accounts by such notable and reliable sources as Carl Czerny and Ferdinand Ries, his two star pupils. Beethoven the pianist sounds very consistent with the account of his conducting that started this thread.

cg

Peter
01-29-2001, 05:11 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:
Beethoven the pianist sounds very consistent with the account of his conducting that started this thread.

cg



From the accounts I have read of Beethoven as a pianist, he would have a hard time of it up against today's standards - he was unsurpassed as an improviser, but when it came to performing his own works, much technical untidiness was apparent - the same goes for his conducting. I think we have to remember though that the virtuoso of the mid 1790's was not the same as the Beethoven afflicted by deafness a few years later.

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

Serge
01-31-2001, 02:14 AM
I wonder if his technical untidyness affected the reception of his concerts by the audience (the ones where he was soloist). Ludwig played a number of public concerts, but I don't seem to recall any mention of post-concert critique. Does anyone here know?

Peter
01-31-2001, 05:28 AM
Carl Czerny speaks of B's wonderful cantabile tone and legato chords - he goes on to say 'his playing did not posses that clean and brilliant elegance of certain other pianists.'

Mosheles writing in 1814 said 'his actual playing gave me less satisfaction, because it was neither clean nor precise, yet I could still notice many traces of a once great virtuosity.' At this date of course, his deafness can be blamed for these deficiencies.

Most of B's appearances as a pianist before a large audience would have taken place in his earlier years, though there was the famous 1808 concert (riot!) where his playing was overshadowed by the fiasco that ensued.

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

Peter
01-31-2001, 06:00 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:
Play only what is written? How are "expressiveness", distribution of "light and shade", and (gasp!!) an "effective tempo rubato" written so as to convey the composers full intentions? I presume that the best orchestral players Vienna had to offer could read music, so why the need to discuss them with the individual players?

The score and nothing but the score? Based on this account, and plenty of others describing Beethoven's own piano playing, musicians with the ability to interpret the score, such as Furtwangler and Richter, may be much closer to the truth than what passes for authenticy today.

cg



This has never been my position! I have never advocated the mere robotic playing of notes ! The Score is paramount yes, but then interpretation is essential. What I mean is that if B writes Forte he doesn't want Piano. If he writes Staccato, he doesn't want Legato. If he writes a Crotchet, he doesn't want a minim, if he writes D natural, he doesn't want D# etc........ That is what I mean by being true to the score - everything else such as balance of sound, the degree of Staccato or Legato, the flexibility of tempo are matters of personal interpretation which are equally important.

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

chrisg
02-01-2001, 02:15 AM
Originally posted by Peter:
Carl Czerny speaks of B's wonderful cantabile tone and legato chords - he goes on to say 'his playing did not posses that clean and brilliant elegance of certain other pianists.'

the quote continues, "but on the other hand it was energetic, profound, noble, with all the charms of smooth and connected cantabile and particularly in the Adadio, highly feeling and romantic. His performance, like his compositions, was a musical painting of the highest class, esteemed only for its general effect."

More from Czerny, "Wheras Beethoven's playing excelled in its extraordinary strength, character, and unprecedented bravura and fluency, Hummel's performance was the model of the highest purity and clarity, the most ingratiating elegence and delicacy."

"Extraordinary as his playing was when he improvised, it was frequently less successful when he played his printed compositions, for, as he never had patience or time to practise, the result would generally depend on accident or his mood; and his playing, like his compositions, was far ahead of its time, the pianofortes of the period (until 1810), still extremely weak and imperfect, could not endure his gigantic style of performance."

Ferdinand Ries wrote, "When Beethoven gave me a lesson, he was - contrary to his nature, I might say - remarkably patient... When I missed something in a passage or struck notes and leaps falsely that he frequently wanted brought out, he rarely said anything. Only if I failed in the expression, in the crescendos and such, or in the character of a piece, did he get provoked, since, as he said, the former was an accident, but the latter revealed a lack of knowledge, or feeling, or care. The former happened to him very often, even when he played in public."

General comments not directed at you Peter:

That Beethoven was not as technically polished as some others is true, but it's obvious from these and plenty of other accounts that getting all the notes right was very much of secondary importance. It's all about energy, strength, bravura, feeling, expressiveness, a "gigantic style of performance," at once noble, profound, charming and romantic. And from the quote that started this thread, characterized by delicate nuances, light and shade, an effective tempo rubato, and ardor.

What a road map for performers, and how rarely even attempted, no less realized. That goes for conductors as well as pianists. These accounts, from two friends that studied with Beethoven, premiered many of his works, played under his supervision, and most importantly, heard him play, are the real "authentic" performance practices. Yet, in one drab recording after another, they are ignored. I don't mean to single out Bernard Roberts (he's no worse than most) but his sonata set was given as a primary recommendation in another thread. What's missing are basically all of the above adjectives used to describe how Beethoven played his own music. Underplayed dynamics, unwavering tempos, and deadpan expression take their place. Nice "readings," but I prefer "performances."

I just realized that I'm an "authentic" fan after all.

cg

Peter
02-01-2001, 10:40 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:

That Beethoven was not as technically polished as some others is true, but it's obvious from these and plenty of other accounts that getting all the notes right was very much of secondary importance. It's all about energy, strength, bravura, feeling, expressiveness, a "gigantic style of performance," at once noble, profound, charming and romantic. And from the quote that started this thread, characterized by delicate nuances, light and shade, an effective tempo rubato, and ardor.



Fair enough - I daresay to hear Beethoven play his own works was a revelation (wrong notes as well!) , and who would not swap all their Brendel's, Ashkenazys, Pollinis etc.. for the experience ? - No guarantee though that we'd necessarily enjoy it - Moschelles for one was not impressed (though this was in 1814 when B's deafness was more advanced).
Since performance standards of the time were generally low, it is hard for us today to put into context any appraisal of a particular pianist from then. This is simply another of those impossible to know arguments which Beethoven was all too keen on leaving us!

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

euphony131
02-10-2001, 03:02 AM
Yes, I'll take a PERFORMANCE over a "nice reading" anyday as well. Who cares for limp-wristed delicacy, dainty elegance, pall-like austerity if BRAVUARA, ADOUR, AND PANACHE are absent? That is precisely the problem with CM today, and little wonder it's been relegated to its "museum" status; so many pedants and stiff-collars intent on bleeding the passion out of everything they touch; they want the music to sound as dead as they feel: "Yes, I am so superior, I am playing CM, see how superior I am? I get all the notes correct! No mistakes! You see! I am superior! I keep my emotion in check, I don't let loose, I play perfectly, correctly, I don't read anything into anything, I just read the notes, only the notes, I keep my eyes on the scoresheet, I am better than a robot! More machine-like than the Terminator. You see? I am superior!" GAG!

That Beethoven apparently did not place so much importance on getting the notes "correct" as much as getting the FEELING/FIRE is all the proof we need to go for more emotional flair. I also doubt very much Beethoven played any one sonata the same way twice. I think he was more like Horowitz and would play the same piece differently depending upon how he felt or deemed relevant. He must've know there were countless different ways to approach a piece.

Peter
02-10-2001, 09:12 AM
Maybe, but for my money, I'd rather have both - a pianist who can interpret and bring music alive without a fistful of wrong notes. Why do you have to have one without the other ? Why does a note perfect performance have to mean a stilted performance ? - are you saying that for an exhilarating performance wrong notes are inevitable ? I accept that the notes are not everything, and I would rather listen to a performance with a few wrong notes that was alive and meaningful than a note perfect flat rendition, but it is possible to be note perfect and musical as well !

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

Rod
02-10-2001, 07:19 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:
What's missing are basically all of the above adjectives used to describe how Beethoven played his own music. Underplayed dynamics, unwavering tempos, and deadpan expression take their place. Nice "readings," but I prefer "performances."

I just realized that I'm an "authentic" fan after all.



Have to bring some balance here! Czerny also said, in B's early days at least, that B maintained a fairly strict tempo throughout, with the occasional speeding up or holding back the tempo used only on occasion as an effect. The constant use of rubato typical of today robs the music of much of the momentum that is the essence of Beethoven - and this is as true for the later works as for the early. I prefer them played pretty much 'straight' as B directs, especially the allegros, but of course not robotically so. The underplayed dynamics is merely a problem caused by an instrument that is too loud and too thickly toned and incapable of sharp attack. The player tends to restrict him/herself lest the sound become grotesque.

------------------
"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

[This message has been edited by Rod (edited 02-10-2001).]

Rod
02-11-2001, 04:04 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:

I just realized that I'm an "authentic" fan after all.

cg



May I also add that the rubato used commonly today on todays instruments is almost IMPOSSIBLE to replicate on the Viennese instruments B was familiar with, even the later 6.5 octave models. Fp players I have heard trying to play rubato in the modern sence fail, without exception, to produce a convincing effect. The fp simply does not have the same capacity to 'mould' the sound as the modern piano. Considering it has been established here that pianists today are superior to those of yesteryear, I suppose rubato as we know it would have rarely been attempted in B's day. Instead more emphasis must have been placed on the correct phrasing of the melody within a stricter tempo. Thus if B was deliberately composing piano works that required such flexibility they would have undoubtedly all been failures using the technology he was familiar with.

chrisg
02-11-2001, 05:56 PM
May I also add that the rubato used commonly today on todays instruments is almost IMPOSSIBLE to replicate on the Viennese instruments B was familiar with, even the later 6.5 octave models.

Hello Rod, glad to see you're back. Taking rubato off the table, all of the accounts still point to this:

It's all about energy, strength, bravura, feeling, expressiveness, a "gigantic style of
performance," at once noble, profound, charming and romantic. And from the quote that started this thread, characterized by delicate nuances, light and shade, and ardor.

You also wrote:

The underplayed dynamics is merely a problem caused by an instrument that is too loud and too thickly toned and incapable of sharp attack. The player tends to restrict him/herself lest the sound become grotesque.

My comment on underplayed dynamics was directed at Roberts, and most others I've heard. Pianists like Richter and Gilels have no such problem, and produce nothing grotesque to my ears. Again, based only on what I've read, the instruments of Beethoven's time couldn't handle the dynamics he wanted. He was continually breaking his pianos in the attempt, though I can't say whether or not this was true while his hearing was still intact. Another variable is that the instrument was changing and improving over his lifetime.

Rod, I'd love to hear Beethoven played on a period piano in a way consistent with the accounts of Czerny and Ries. On the front page, recordings by Paul Komen are recommended. Is he your pick? If you don't mind listing some specific favorite recordings of yours, I'll give them a try.

cg

~Leslie
02-12-2001, 01:52 AM
More grist for the mill:


As with the Eroica, he pushed the limits of the period's chamber orchestra, which nearly burst the four walls of Lichnowsky's salon.

Now the new sonatas were already beyond the mechanical capacity of the piano and virtuosity of the performers of his day. if played according to Beethoven's implications, it would have done damage to the close descendants of the harpisichord.

B appealed to Striecher the piano maker to give his instruments greater resonance and elasticity that the virtuoso who plays with strength and significance may have the instrument in better command for sustained and expressive tones.

As it was, the Appassionata had not been publicly performed until B had been in his grave for 12 years, so far as the records show.

This is my case thus far, for modern instruments. The man was far ahead of his time~

Peter
02-12-2001, 09:59 AM
Originally posted by ~Leslie:


As it was, the Appassionata had not been publicly performed until B had been in his grave for 12 years, so far as the records show.



As far as I am aware only one of the Sonatas received what we would regard as a public performance in Beethoven's lifetime (I forget which one !)- but that has to do with the fashion of the time - the solo recital (a term supposedly coined by Liszt) simply did not exist.

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

Rod
02-12-2001, 12:43 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:


Hello Rod, glad to see you're back. Taking rubato off the table, all of the accounts still point to this:

It's all about energy, strength, bravura, feeling, expressiveness, a "gigantic style of
performance," at once noble, profound, charming and romantic. And from the quote that started this thread, characterized by delicate nuances, light and shade, and ardor.

Had to return to put matters straight on this topic. Notice that Beethoven managed to play with all the above characteristics on a Viennese fortepiano! Nuances, light and shade are possible and necessary - but they are a reflection of correct phrasing and volume rather than continuous pushing and pulling of tempo, which B could have not effectively achieved. Profundity and romantisim as we commonly know it today are in my opinion mutually exclusive - listen to Webers chamber music circa 1815 - THEN you hear something really romantic and something altogether different from Beethoven.

Originally posted by chrisg:
[b]
You also wrote:

[b]The underplayed dynamics is merely a problem caused by an instrument that is too loud and too thickly toned and incapable of sharp attack. The player tends to restrict him/herself lest the sound become grotesque.

My comment on underplayed dynamics was directed at Roberts, and most others I've heard. Pianists like Richter and Gilels have no such problem, and produce nothing grotesque to my ears. Again, based only on what I've read, the instruments of Beethoven's time couldn't handle the dynamics he wanted. He was continually breaking his pianos in the attempt, though I can't say whether or not this was true while his hearing was still intact. Another variable is that the instrument was changing and improving over his lifetime.

Gilels recording of the Hammerklavier is one of the most dissappointing purchases I ever made, I regard it as totally undynamic compared to recording I have by Badura-Skoda using an original 1820's instrument. I have also critisised Richter here in the past as one dimentional. The grotesqueness comes when pianists really try to go for dynamism on the modern piano - the tone is far to thick and noisy for the music's context. I have some such performances where B's noisier passages are simply earsplittingly awful played at 'full blast', a typical case being op2 no3. The modern piano is simply too much for this type of bravaura, yet on a 5 octave Walter or Schantz B would have used, it sounds totally plausible. Performers are always fussy about their instruments - the big stars today are not satisfied unless they have the best of the best, does it mean that the others have no worth?

Regarding the tendancy for the piano strings to break, this is a secondary issue not connected to the musicallity - I would accept the use of stronger modern strings if they had the same sound characteristics as the old ones. My point is with the modern instrument things have been taken too far, so that the sound is too heavy, noisy and lacking attack for music of B's time. It is unrealistic to suggest that the modern piano is equally suited for all piano music written since the instruments invention.

Regarding Roberts I did not give his an unqualified recommendation, I praised his recording of the Diabelli and op126 which I have heard nothing better. Some of the sonatas are rather lax regarding tempi and dynamics but I praised him for being free of any distracting personal performance ideosyncracies that one often hears elsewhere, even by fp players.

Originally posted by chrisg:
[b]
Rod, I'd love to hear Beethoven played on a period piano in a way consistent with the accounts of Czerny and Ries. On the front page, recordings by Paul Komen are recommended. Is he your pick? If you don't mind listing some specific favorite recordings of yours, I'll give them a try.



It is ultimately only through hearing that I make my case - reading books does not suffice. Until you hear both sides of the situation, you cannot really pass judgement either way. Paul Badura-Skoda's complete sonatas is my recommendation, but this is no longer in the catalogue, with only a couple of lame renditions out of the 32. But there is still available (in UK) an excellent recording by him of B's 4th concerto (with the tripple also) on DHM using a Graf. Komen is recommended also for certain sonatas at least - the more unusual ones especially like op78 or op31 no3, where he is the best I have heard. But I have not heard all his recordings. Melvyn Tan has a very good recording of op81a, op53 and op57 - Tan plays things very straight here, a good example of what I'm talking about (but Tan's other recordings are lame for some reason).

Rod
02-12-2001, 01:33 PM
Originally posted by ~Leslie:

More grist for the mill:


As with the Eroica, he pushed the limits of the period's chamber orchestra, which nearly burst the four walls of Lichnowsky's salon.


I suggest to the contrary that B was rather a conservative orchestrator, he rarely went beyond the norm at that time, definitely conservative by Romantic standards!

Originally posted by ~Leslie:

Now the new sonatas were already beyond the mechanical capacity of the piano and virtuosity of the performers of his day. if played according to Beethoven's implications, it would have done damage to the close descendants of the harpisichord.


This is a myth that has been peddled by so-called academics for years, the best pianos were more than capable of dealing with B's material, of this there is absolutely no doubt. B even had his own recommended brand, namely Streicher...

Originally posted by ~Leslie:

B appealed to Striecher the piano maker to give his instruments greater resonance and elasticity that the virtuoso who plays with strength and significance may have the instrument in better command for sustained and expressive tones.


...and such instruments were thus provided, hence the instrument grew significantly in size and strength from about 1810 onwards. The pianos of the 1820's were (and still are) more than capable of playing the late sonatas. The above request does not by default mean he wanted a Steinway circa 1990. In fact B showed disatisfaction with the 'more modern' English-actioned Erard and Broadood pianos he posessed (despite their more powerful tone) and reverted to the Viennese norm.

Originally posted by ~Leslie:

As it was, the Appassionata had not been publicly performed until B had been in his grave for 12 years, so far as the records show.

This is my case thus far, for modern instruments. The man was far ahead of his time~

As has been said already, such works were not written for concert performance at that time, whereas the full size modern grand is specifically desgned for large venues and cannot be played effectively in a 'salon'. I heard B's op10 played on just a half size Steinway grand in such a salon - the instrument was 100 times too loud for this relatively intimate accoustic. Call me Mr Fussy but I don't want to appreciate the Appassionata from 150 feet away in the 75th row!

Rod

chrisg
02-13-2001, 12:47 AM
Gilels recording of the Hammerklavier is one of the most dissappointing purchases I ever made, I regard it as totally undynamic compared to recording I have by Badura-Skoda
using an original 1820's instrument.

I have most of Gilel's Beethoven, but not this one. In every one I do have, it's the magnificently dynamic playing that jumps out at me. His "Appassionata" has huge dynamic contrasts, as well as the most sublime slow movement I've heard. Going back to Roberts (only because he's common ground for comparison), there is no comparison. Try the finale of the "Moonlight", absolutely speaker busting violent in Gilels hands. If Badura-Skoda makes Gilels sound "undynamic" compared to these, I must find his recordings.


I have also critisised Richter here in the past as one dimentional. The grotesqueness comes when pianists really try to go for dynamism on the modern piano - the
tone is far to thick and noisy for the music's context. I have some such performances where B's noisier passages are simply earsplittingly awful played at 'full blast', a typical case being op2 no3. The modern piano is simply too much for this type of bravaura,

Well, then again, maybe I wouldn't think much of Badura-Skoda after all. Our tastes are on different planets. I can't stand Beethoven, even "early" Beethoven, played like nice Mozart (keeping in mind I haven't heard B-S), which is exactly how it's normally done. To my ears, Richter's Op. 2 No.3 (Prague '65) is without any qualification, the greatest performance going, a masterpiece revealed, instead of nice "early" B. Superb everywhere, tear producing beautiful in the Adagio, and the most fun, wittiest, perfectly phrased finale. Every dimension this music has to offer comes out in this performance, and for what it's worth, the audience agrees with me. His "Appassionata" on the other hand, is pretty one dimensional, but flat out thrilling is a hell of an effective dimension for this work.

For me, Richter is the greatest pianist to ever touch a keyboard, equally superlative in Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Ravel, Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, etc... Lots of dimensions there. Ok, I don't care for his Chopin, but nobody's perfect.

Well, if we all liked it the same way, music would be a lot less interesting.

cg




[This message has been edited by chrisg (edited 02-12-2001).]

Rod
02-13-2001, 02:06 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:


I have most of Gilel's Beethoven, but not this one. In every one I do have, it's the magnificently dynamic playing that jumps out at me. His "Appassionata" has huge dynamic contrasts, as well as the most sublime slow movement I've heard. Going back to Roberts (only because he's common ground for comparison), there is no comparison. Try the finale of the "Moonlight", absolutely speaker busting violent in Gilels hands. If Badura-Skoda makes Gilels sound "undynamic" compared to these, I must find his recordings.


Gilels Hammerklavier is his most famous recording. I've read long articles devoted to it! I have had in my possession all of B's 'named' sonatas by Gilels. They are ok but not dynamic enough for me compared to the best efforts I've heard using the fp, which have an abundance of colour, clarity and incisive attack, whereas the modern instruments qualities lie in volume and sustain. I suggest that dynamism essential in Beethoven is better served by the fp's qualities. I have a recording of the finale of the moonlight by Jos van Immerseel using a Graf that would blow your head off. You would put away your Gilels recording for ever. A CD-RW will be comming my way soon, I may compile a demo for interested parties.

Originally posted by chrisg:

Well, then again, maybe I wouldn't think much of Badura-Skoda after all. Our tastes are on different planets. I can't stand Beethoven, even "early" Beethoven, played like nice Mozart (keeping in mind I haven't heard B-S), which is exactly how it's normally done. To my ears, Richter's Op. 2 No.3 (Prague '65) is without any qualification, the greatest performance going, a masterpiece revealed, instead of nice "early" B. Superb everywhere, tear producing beautiful in the Adagio, and the most fun, wittiest, perfectly phrased finale. Every dimension this music has to offer comes out in this performance, and for what it's worth, the audience agrees with me. His "Appassionata" on the other hand, is pretty one dimensional, but flat out thrilling is a hell of an effective dimension for this work.


Who said Beethoven should sound like Mozart? In fact Mozart only sounds so lame because of its inaproprate performance using modern pianos and playing techniques!!! On the contrary I suggest you can more effectively play with fire and passion using the fp because clarity it still preserved and volume never becomes excessive. With the Steinway I agree the solution is not to revert to some 'choppy' manner of playing, in fact there is no solution I can see for this problem, when you start with the wrong tools your never going to make a perfect job of it. I don't think we need Richter to reveal a Beethoven masterpiece! but I am glad you noticed his 'unique' (infact for me the very worst) interpretation of the Appassionata. I suggest it is the late romantic influence that has resulted in so much 'nice' Beethoven, as most of it is not effective played in this manner - hence I suggest there are more duff Beethoven recordings than that of any other composer - only with Beethoven is there such a diverse confusion and uncertainty of interpretation.

Originally posted by chrisg:

For me, Richter is the greatest pianist to ever touch a keyboard, equally superlative in Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Ravel, Debussy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov, etc... Lots of dimensions there. Ok, I don't care for his Chopin, but nobody's perfect.


The fact that you include Beethoven with these other composers is significant - do you regard the others as particularly dynamic composers? If you do then it is here above all we are absolutely poles apart. I don't think you can realistically just switch from the likes of Rachmanillow to Beethoven and expect to observe the nuances of the latter - this is why most pianists are so lame when it comes to Beethoven. In fact why play the others at all if you can play Beethoven!!

Originally posted by chrisg:

Well, if we all liked it the same way, music would be a lot less interesting.


Peaceable get-outs not allowed!

chrisg
02-15-2001, 01:59 AM
Peaceable get-outs not allowed!

Quite right, I plead temporary niceness. I listened to Richter's Op.2/3 today, and about that, you are completely wrong. I did post one mistake though, it's not from Prague '65, it's acutally Prague '75. I must have been thinking of Richter's equally great No. 18, which is of course, Prague '65.

I posted to the classical recordings newsgroup asking for period instrument piano recommendations. The first response was "Why?", but I did get a real one from Mr. Simon Roberts, whose knowledge of classical recordings in general, and Beethoven recordings in particular, is so incredibly vast he's been accused of being a committee.
"If you want a complete HIP set, there's one on Claves featuring a variety of pianists (Bilson plus Bilson students from Cornell) and pianos, all very well recorded. The performance styles are all over the map, ranging from the fairly fast and dramatic (Bilson, van Oort) to the more restrained (technically they're all fine). I wish they had all been done in the former manner, but, well, I guess that's just tough luck. Note
that Bilson also adds a few ornaments, most controversially (presumably, though as far as I can see it hasn't generated much) in op. 109/iii.

There are other individual discs worth pursuing, including a CD on Pro Arte by Peter Serkin containing the last three (his op. 111/i is hair-raising) that's out of print but which occasionally shows up in used
CD stores. His wonderful Hammerklavier was (unlike his Steinway recording) unfortunately never released on CD (if you ever find the LP or cassette, also Pro Arte, grab it). Another superb LP only performance is Demus's op. 110 (he plays Beethoven's own Graf piano with rather more flair than his other recordings might lead one to expect; this is one of
my favorite performances, not least for the extraordinary array of tonal shading the instrument is capable of). Anthony Newman's disc of popular sonatas on Newport Classics is also worth finding, as I suppose are the
rather more conservative single discs by Lubin and Lubimov (I don't know how many of these are still in print). There's also a series on Globe by Paul Komen that's gradually trickling out (there's a handful of discs available so far); these are good, solid performances that lack the last
degree of flair and drama, and a disc by Kipnis that's pretty good. Khouri's disc on M&A is wretched and should be avoided (unlike his Chopin disc); the same goes for Melvyn Tan's depressingly boring discs."

Rod, are you familiar with Anthony Newman's recordings? His disc of 8, 14, 21, and 23 is available cheap online at Berkshire Record Outlet, along with the Concertos and some Mozart Sonatas - all on fortepiano. I'll give these a try, but will look around for the Badura-Skoda set. Things turn up in used shops. What's the label?

And yes, I did notice the line about the Graf piano.

Thanks,

Chris

Rod
02-15-2001, 06:13 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:

Peaceable get-outs not allowed!

Quite right, I plead temporary niceness. I listened to Richter's Op.2/3 today, and about that, you are completely wrong. I did post one mistake though, it's not from Prague '65, it's acutally Prague '75. I must have been thinking of Richter's equally great No. 18, which is of course, Prague '65.


Fair enough, but based on the 'modern' recordings of this piece (Op2/3) I have heard, If this is what B was actually thinking of, he was a second rate composer! Of course this does not happen to be the case so I point the finger of accusation elsewhere!

Originally posted by chrisg:

...Rod, are you familiar with Anthony Newman's recordings? His disc of 8, 14, 21, and 23 is available cheap online at Berkshire Record Outlet, along with the Concertos and some Mozart Sonatas - all on fortepiano. I'll give these a try, but will look around for the Badura-Skoda set. Things turn up in used shops. What's the label?

And yes, I did notice the line about the Graf piano.

Thanks,

Chris


Very interesting stuff, notice the comment about 'tonal shading'! This probably equates to what I call 'colour effects' that these instruments are especially good at, but there are other things, you can't do a proper Beethoven sforzando on the Steinway as far as I am concerned.

I have the Claves set myself, and indeed there is a whole range of playing styles used between these performers - some spot on, others pretty awfull. I would not say the sound is all good with this set, half of them were done at in US university (a sponsor of the recording) hall and the accoustic is awful (obviously a situation where 'if you don't use our hall, you don't get our cash'). Not just Bilson takes liberties with the scores, I think all the others do as well. All of these things, together with a hefty price tag (100 here in the UK) is why I have not recommended it. However I bought the set in a sale for 30 - at this price a bargain for 10 disks!! It does include the 3 Bonn sonatas as well, which is a bonus.

I know not of Newmans recordings, but I could give you a dozen totally unknown names from my collection in addition! I'm not really looking any more, I think I've got as good as I am likely to find. I will do some compilation CD's when I get the CD-RW that will demonstrate the best of what I'm talking about, this is the only way to convince, and you WILL (if you have an open mind) be convinced! When I've sorted this out I'll let everyone know, and those interested can send me their addresses. Until then, as far as I am aware only Sue here has heard Badura-Skoda using a Graf, ask her if you need a second opinion. The label is Astree Audvis (French), but not sure about the name or spelling. I will check tonight and ammend this post tomorrow if I have got it wrong.

Rod

------------------
"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

[This message has been edited by Rod (edited 02-15-2001).]

Chris
02-15-2001, 08:37 PM
Rod, if you want people to hear your stuff, why not just rip them from your CD's and post them as mp3's?

Rod
02-16-2001, 06:48 PM
Originally posted by Chris:
Rod, if you want people to hear your stuff, why not just rip them from your CD's and post them as mp3's?

Good Idea, I might just do that!

------------------
"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin