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chrisg
03-06-2001, 04:16 AM
In keeping with the Historically Informed Performance theme, here's some thoughts on recent arrivals from Berkshire Record Outlet.

Piano Trios Op.1, 1 and 2, London Fortepiano Trio.

Not the most demanding Beethoven around, but these are outstanding in every way. Fleet and fun, with a wonderful sound from the period instruments.

Violin Sonatas 5 and 9, Evan Johnson / Anthony Newman.

Absolutely staggering, completely possessed playing in the Kreutzer. The clip Rod posted with Schroder and Immerseel is mighty hot, but manages to sound a tad tame in comparison. The recording balance favors the violinist, who sounds as if he's ready to spontaneously combust. I miss the playful phrasing that Francescatti brings to the Andante variations (I always do) but the outer movements are like nothing else. WOW!!

Sonatas: Moonlight, Appassionata, Pathetique, and Waldstein; Anthony Newman

Timings with all repeats taken:

Moonlight: 5:06, 1:40, 6:59
Appassionata: 8:19, 5:44, 7:37
Pathetique: 7:43, 4:22, 3:57
Waldstein: 9:04, 3:17, 8:26

These are all speeds I've never even heard attempted before. Newman plays a copy of an 1804 Clementi, "a warm and resonant example of a type of piano Beethoven favored later in his life." Whatever. Like the Violin Sonata disc, I find myself listening to the performances first and the sound of the instrument second. The 1st mvt. of the Moonlight works wonderfully at this speed, shorn of all Romanticism. Like Immerseel, Newman attacks the opening of the finale with such speed that the notes tend to blur some, but it just didn't bother me here. Ferocious playing. I went back and tried Immerseel, and it didn't bother me there either. Maybe I'm getting HIP adjusted.

More of the same in the Pathetique and Appassionata, flat out for the most part. Newman threatens to break his Clementi a couple of times in No. 23, but what the hell. Even slow movements are pushed hard. I miss the beautiful singing quality of the best modern piano versions, but frankly Newman is going for something else.

With the Waldstein, Newman goes completely over the top, bypassing ferocious right to maniacal. Hearing this for the first time, I didn't know whether to laugh or cheer. I've settled on cheer. Fortunately, Newman has the fingers to pull off these speeds, and the effect is hard to describe. The clarity is really incredible, runs glitter somehow in a way that's completely different. The final prestissimo defies belief.

Concertos 2-5, Newman with the Philomusica Antiqua, Stephen Simon cond.

I've only made one pass through these, starting with the Emperor, a disappointment after the sonatas. The fortepiano seems rather backwardly balanced, and the conducting pretty stiff. Tempos are the fastest I've heard, but in the finale Simon successfully challenges his brass player to blow as softly as possible. I hate that. The boring Egmont Overture filler makes me put the blame on the conductor. I'll try again to see if this grows on me.

No such problem with Concertos 2,3, and 4, the fp shines through and maestro Simon is on form. Speeds are very fast, but now the orchesta is as involved as Newman. My first impression is that these are superb performances, full of swagger and tremendous energy, great alternatives to the traditional approach. The 4th is the most unconventional sounding, 16:00 flat in the 1st movement, with that same glittering sound ringing through. Kaleidoscopic, for lack of a better word.

I also picked up two wonderful Mozart sonata discs by Newman, playing the Clementi and also a 1790 Konicke. Nothing dainty here, this is Mozart played with swing and personality.

Anthony Newman is something special.

Hey Rod, I think you'd like these.

cg




[This message has been edited by chrisg (edited 03-05-2001).]

Rod
03-06-2001, 02:18 PM
Originally posted by chrisg:


Anthony Newman is something special.


Well, I've always said there's more to life than Kempf et al, if they can get some shelf space!!

Originally posted by chrisg:

Hey Rod, I think you'd like these.



Very interesting reviews, but you're preaching to the converted here. Most of the stuff I have is now rare or not available at all, so your recommendations are more useful to people here than mine. Good as these recordings seem to be, I've already got more good recordings than I have time to listen to, so I don't think I'll be placing my order at the moment for these disks! But you will find, now that you have a few disks of this nature, that you will quickly tire of the modern sound. This experience proved costly for me, having bought virtually the complete works twice over on modern instruments.


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

Peter
03-07-2001, 09:24 AM
Originally posted by Rod:
This experience proved costly for me, having bought virtually the complete works twice over on modern instruments.




This is part of the problem! I just about replaced my B record collection on CD only to have to think about these HIP versions as well!

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'Man know thyself'

Peter
03-07-2001, 09:31 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:
Newman plays a copy of an 1804 Clementi, "a warm and resonant example of a type of piano Beethoven favored later in his life." [/B]

I'd be interested in knowing what you thought of the actual instrument aside from the performances - what I mean is, did you notice much difference in the sound quality of the Clementi as opposed to the Graf?
Newman certainly sounds impressive - another one to check out!

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'Man know thyself'

Rod
03-07-2001, 11:29 AM
Originally posted by Peter:
I'd be interested in knowing what you thought of the actual instrument aside from the performances - what I mean is, did you notice much difference in the sound quality of the Clementi as opposed to the Graf?
Newman certainly sounds impressive - another one to check out!


Given that Clementi pianos were made in London I presume they would have an English action and sound not unlike their main rivals Broadwood, but I have not heard a Clementi piano. Certainly you could not compare this 1804 Clementi with the Graf, which would have had a greater keyboard compass and probably be a much larger instrument. A later Clementi model would be good for comparison. However I have a recording of an original 1805 Broadwood that sounds not too unlike the later Broadwood models, the tone being similarly soft (too soft) but bold and the key articulation somewhat cluttered and mechanical sounding. They could never remove the jangly metallic colouration from the stringing on these early English models, but I doubt Beethoven could have been capable of hearing such subtlties by the time he got his own Broadwood. I have my own suspicions about how much of the Broadwood sound he could have heard effectively, since it did not concern him whether the instrument was in tune or not, and his performance days were long over prior to this due to his increasing deafness. I think the instrument pleased him at least as much as a gift (perhaps even more) as it did as a piano. Just my suspicion though.

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

chrisg
03-08-2001, 02:36 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:

"Hey Rod, I think you'd like these."

Rod, add !!!! to the end of my comment, written only to express my astonishment at owning a few CDs I think you'd like.

cg

chrisg
03-08-2001, 03:44 AM
Originally posted by Peter:
I'd be interested in knowing what you thought of the actual instrument aside from the performances - what I mean is, did you notice much difference in the sound quality of the Clementi as opposed to the Graf?
Newman certainly sounds impressive - another one to check out!


The Graf sounds better (as played by Badura-Skoda), but the difference isn't at all important to me. The fact that Newman plays a fortepiano isn't at all important to me either - I credit Newman, not the instrument.

Recordings that really knock me out are ones where the performer manages to make a different approach work, and that takes real talent, not just technical skill. Newman attacks the sonatas with wild, sometimes seemingly reckless abondon, and pulls it off.
He doesn't even approach the "soul" in slow movements common with Schnabel and Richter, and taken for granted by me with Gilels, but compensates with that reckless abandon.

It's the same way for conductors. For Beethoven, I love what Furtwangler, Klemperer, Leibowitz, Scherchen, and Mackerras do in their very different ways, both from each other and the pack of sound alike bores. Period orchestral performances (mostly Gardiner and Norrington) haven't worn well for the most part, because they are mostly devoid of any imagination, and don't do anything special with their instruments. I don't blame the instruments, Jordi Savall's thrilling Eroica, and Bruggen's 7th are proof enough. I don't credit the instruments, I credit Savall, Bruggen, and the folks playing those instuments.

For conductors with imagination, add the likes of Stokowski, Reiner, Bernstein, Mravinsky, Monteux and Munch, and keep guys like Masur, Mehta, Previn, Sawallisch, Wand, Haitink, Ozowa, etc., etc, ... ad nauseam. As long as I'm venting, give me pianists like Richter, Gilels, Cziffra, Horowitz, Gould, Hamelin, Wild, Pogorelich, or Argerich on a bad day and I'd never miss the bushels of great fingers out there without a driver attached. Newman's Beethoven is special, not his fortepiano.

Did I say that I prefer the sound of the Graf?

cg

chrisg
03-08-2001, 04:10 AM
Back to my new HIP recordings:

I did a comparison of the London Fortepiano Trio Op. 1 1&2 with my favorite, the Stuttgart Trio (modern instruments) on Naxos. "Fleet and fun" is how I described the London Trio, but comparing the two, I realize that I'm listening to the period instruments for novelty value mostly, though it's certainly enjoyable. At nearly identical speeds, the Stuttgart group makes much more of the music; tempos within movements are flexible, the players bounce phrases off each other in a much more engaging way, and generally sound as if they're having a ball. The period cello in particular sounds weak compared to its modern counterpart, but I have no way of knowing if it's the cello, the musician, the recording balance, or any combination thereof. The real point is that the London Trio isn't really doing anything particularly special with those instruments. I listened again the the Castle Trio clip of Op.1/3 and they do. I'll hunt out more from them.

The Evan Johnson / Newman "Kreutzer" gets a 10+.

The "Emperor" is better than my first impression, but I still think the conductor's to blame that it's not as good as the rest. No. 2 has an interesting quirk I hadn't noticed; the opening to I is rather stately, but Newman comes in noticable faster than the orchestra, as if pulling them into high gear. They stay on the same page from there. For anyone interested in trying these, I'd recommend Concertos 3 and 4 as the gems of the set. Like the sonata disc, it's the tremendous energy of these performances that makes them winners.

Since Berkshire Record Outlet deals primarily in cutouts, they're probably out of print, but they are cheap, $2 - $6 U.S. Looks like the "Kreutzer" is already sold out though. If you do order from them, be warned that 3-4 weeks out on shipping is not unusual.

cg

Rod
03-08-2001, 11:18 AM
Originally posted by chrisg:
The Graf sounds better (as played by Badura-Skoda), but the difference isn't at all important to me. The fact that Newman plays a fortepiano isn't at all important to me either - I credit Newman, not the instrument.


So the instruments themselves were inconsequential? I agree that the instruments on their own are not enough, but when you compare them to their modern equivalents there are distinct differences in timbre, regardless of who's playing. These differences are of the utmost importance, and this is why I cannot stand the very easy going sound on modern instruments, stripped of all colour in the name of uniformity of tone.

Originally posted by chrisg:

He doesn't even approach the "soul" in slow movements common with Schnabel and Richter, and taken for granted by me with Gilels, but compensates with that reckless abandon.

Depends what you regard as 'soul'. Playing a piece slower, for example, does not make it more soulful, it's down to the phrasing. Many a lengthy romantic rendition of Beethoven adagios by the big names lack any classical spirituallity (eg Gilels op106 on DG) - the soul of classisism requires more brain power to understand, whereas any fool can grasp, say, a Rachmanillow effort. Slow movements played on period instruments are usually ineffectual when the performer is playing TOO slowly, even though it may be quicker than conventional performances, ie they did not have the guts to take the music to what they would regard as an extreme by todays standards, even though they know it is probably right. And thus what you get is something rather lame, as you hear with especially Gardiner as you say, but I never recommend Gardiners set of Symphonies, only 2 or 3 of them are good. Hogwood's (Academy of Ancient music) adagio of the 9th for example is much quicker than Gardiner's, yet sounds considerably more 'soulfull' as the phrasing is more certain and genuinely cantabile, whereas Gardiner seem to be stuck in two minds. The Hanover Band's is also much better than Gardiners or Norringtons simply down to the phrasing.
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"If I were but of noble birth..." - Rod Corkin

Peter
03-08-2001, 12:36 PM
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Rod:
These differences are of the utmost importance, and this is why I cannot stand the very easy going sound on modern instruments, stripped of all colour in the name of uniformity of tone.

I do not regard the modern piano as bereft of colour - there are infinite varieties of tone possible on a Steinway.

... the soul of classisism requires more brain power to understand, whereas any fool can grasp, say, a Rachmanillow effort.

Are you confusing Rachmaninov with Barry Manilow ?

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'Man know thyself'

Rod
03-08-2001, 01:55 PM
Originally posted by Peter:

I do not regard the modern piano as bereft of colour - there are infinite varieties of tone possible on a Steinway.

The Graf has far more colour than a Steinway, and that doesn't just come from me, but Badura-Skoda, who is a master on both.

Originally posted by Peter:

Are you confusing Rachmaninov with Barry Manilow ?


There is no confusion!

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

~Leslie
03-10-2001, 05:38 PM
I agree with you there Rod, Buddha Scoota is far more hip than Rachmanilow.~

Chris
03-10-2001, 07:42 PM
Heh heh http://www.gyrix.com/~cgraye/ubb/smile.gif