Roni's Journal

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Ken tells an amazing story on ensemble playing.

... cello guy totally lost the plot- he couldn't line up his triplets with the syncopated rhythm in the inner voices.

[The 1st violinist] and I started banging our heads like 16 year-olds at a Metalica concert to show the pulse. She glared straight into his eyes like the emissary of death and you could see her mouth moving with viper like precision – "one-two-thre-four-five-six!" and so on.

Amazing story, but I find that those players who can deliver a good performance again and again are the best, and deserve the corresponding title. We often hear and see one-time outstanding performances, and not only in music, but other arts as well (figure skating for example). We then expect the said performer to get better each time, only to find him or her to be really very average. The public doesn't tolerate such disappointments, nor do the critics who prefer fresh meat.

But, nevertheless, well done - on that night!

Of course I agree with you, but there is an entire category of "tales of the unexpected," whether great artists falling flat in concert or not-so-great ones rising to the occasion. I can think of a few truly great musicians where I either love or loathe their performances just based on how much coffee they seem to have had. The ability is always there, but the energy may wax and wane...

So often, it comes down to something as simple as will - great performers have it, almost without exception. In this case, you had two of us who were absolutely determined not to let the thing go south. We were able to pull him up, which is not surprising. What is surprising is that by making us dig so deep, he got us to give more of ourselves than we knew we could. Would I ask him to do it again to try and acheive the same result - no!!!!! But I now know there is something attainable in that passage that I didn't know about before, which I'll have to try to make happen next time.

As it is, I've got plenty of strange tales of concert happenings to share here - hopefully they make an interesting case study of performance issue.

You are right, but you know, with the greatest performers - who are musicians in the full sense of the word - I always find myself so immersed in the music, having to mentally take myself out of it to be able to actually listen to what’s going on, technically. A few minutes later - same thing - I forget myself and the world around. That’s what leaves me literally “speechless”. Not with the average concerts - they get the critique they deserve!

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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Beethoven - Mitsuko Uchida, Paul Lewis

Patrick reviews Uchida's rendition of Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' sonata.

I wonder what will Uchida's 'Moonlight' Sonata be like?

I have also not got my copy of Paul Lewis playing it, but I have heard it in a recording of his concert. The first two movements were ok. The Presto agitato - not.

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Sunday, 23 September 2007

Hélène Grimaud cancels concert because of piano pedal

Mostlyopera quotes:

Because of a controversy over the middle pedal of a piano the pianist Hélène Grimaud called off a gala concert with the Staatskapelle Dresden briefly before the beginning in Prague on Saturday. The 37-old pianist surprisingly required the organizers of the festival “Prager herbst” on Saturday to adjust the middle pedal. "Since the piano belongs to the Czech Philharmonic Concert Hall, the Festival Management does not have mandate to make such a change", said Festival executive Pavel Spiroch. Helene Grimaud, who is considered to be one of the best pianists in the world, thereupon canceled the appearance. On the program was piano concert No. 5 by Ludwig van Beethoven. Many of the visitors, having traveled a long way to attend this performance expressed both disappointment and anger, when they were informed of the cancellation before the locked doors of the Concert Hall, claiming the whole incident to be a farce. "The piano is one of the best in Prague", said Philharmonic Concert Hall leader Vaclav Riedlbauch. The Staatskapelle Dresden did not want to offer only half a concert to the public and therefore the entire concert was canceled.

Professional pianists use the middle pedal a lot, especially in fast piano passages.

But this particular cancellation may indicate that something deeper was going on between Hélène Grimaud and the management. The pedal was just one of the better reasons that the public might accept better.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Simple is never simple

Kenneth reveals the complexities of Mahler's fourth symphony:

Looking at the page instead of thinking about what it sounds like tells you a lot about just how complex and conflicted this first movement is. As with Haydn, simplicity is the most serious business for Mahler.


Simple is never simple.

That is probably why such geniuses as Gesualdo, Buxtehude, Handel, Mozart, Schubert – to name a few – are way underestimated and undervalued, especially comparing to others.

That is probably also the reason why Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Tchaikovsky – and the rest of the pack – are so overrated.

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Young virtuosi

Jessica tells us about her impressions from the Manchester International Concerto Competition for Young Pianists.

... the 22 and Under's strongest impression was left by someone who was also under 16: Jan Lisiecki from Calgary in Canada, who played Chopin's Second Concerto. He's only 12.

I'm all for young musicians, but, in my opinion, it's not all about being a virtuoso. Why are all these kids performing difficult virtuosic concerti? Is that the only way we can judge their musicianship, their musicality?

I have heard a few famous 10-year-olds. Some performances just blew me out of the chair. Some didn't. But my "approvals" weren't the same as the audience's. Why is faster – better?

I want to hear these kids play Handel's suite in D-minor (No. 15), the second movement from Mozart's 22nd piano concerto, Chopin's nocturne in F-minor (Op. 15 No. 1), to name a few.

Same goes for violinists, flutists and all other young musicians: play something slow – it is much more difficult.

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Career and family

Anne writes:

Many of us are single, and even those of us who are partnered are unsure how children will fit into their lives. Will we have the time and stability in our careers to devote to being the kinds of parents we would hope to be?

And my reply was:

You are right, many classical musicians are always "on the move", no time for real family... Children require real commitment, and if you know you won't be able to give them that – better not have them at all, I guess. But, in reality, it is up to you whether to turn the career nob down a bit and start a real family. Career and family can "live" side by side – they are not mutually exclusive!

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