A Consideration :To be or not to be
Caught on a Wang ,you might say, I have been interested to clarify certain thoughts on performers,performances and their public .
Geoff Cox ,a chemist by profession and music lover who is ever present and helpful in publicising events that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Jessie Harrington is the other one of these amazingly dedicated people of whom there are certainly not many.
Two at the last count
Hats off to them and long may their enthusiasm endure.
I had heard Yuja Wang only on the much discussed video from Carnegie Hall in which she plays the Hammerklavier sonata in an evening that was very special indeed.
Much discussed her disabille’ that had no relevance whatsoever to her extraordinarily prodigious playing .
To hear a Hammerklavier of such drive and intelligence from a young chinese lady together with some other remarkable performances showed a phenomenally prodigeous pianist that I was longing to hear live.
So I was very pleased that she had announced that very Hammerklavier at the Royal Festival Hall last week .
She decided to change the programme and all that has been discussed and has no relevance to what I actually ( over) heard.( enclosed below my views).
That this has become a cause celebre I do not think is worth contemplating on this occasion.
We often used to have the” for and against” at Kissin and Pogorelich’s early recitals.
That they are controversial musicians is true but that they are masters of their instrument is also true.
Most young pianists if you ask them who is the pianist they most admire would reply Grigory Sokolov .
So two years ago I was happy to be able to hear him in Rome playing Schumann’s Humoresque.
It was such a brutal performance where true balance was substituted for a brutal fight between the melodic line and the accompaniment. No winners possible here .
Never did I think I would witness such an attentive public to such a brutal exhibition .
I looked around amazed and astonished never more so than at the standing ovation that he received at the end.
I returned a year later to hear a most phenomenal Hammerklavier that had me cheering to the rafters.
The same thing happened years ago with Lazar Berman .
Known in the trade as “Lazar Beam” for his razor sharp brutal- I plays mainly by force- technique.
I walked out after the third of the Transcendental Studies by Liszt at the Festival Hall.
The sound was quite literally overpowering and unbearable.
But years later in my theatre in Rome he gave the most magical performances of Chopins Polonaises .
Here was the true artist, pupil of the legendary Goldenweiser
Lang Lang played a most memorable Rachmaninoff 3rd concerto at his Prom debut .
But last year in Rome he played the four ballades by Chopin where he went into fifth gear at each of the four codas .
The fourth particularly horrible as the five quiet chords before the coda ended fortissimo with a bang at the bottom register of the piano.
Lang Lang played with slick professionism to 3000 people whereas Behozod Abduraimov the day before had played the same Ballades magnificently to 30 people .
There is a difference obviously between entertainers and great interpreters which is not necessarily and very rarely the same .
I was brought up in a non musical family but the inspiration to play the piano came from seeing Liberace,Winifred Attwell and Russ Conway on the Television.
In the same way that Lang Lang relying on his prodigious gifts as an entertainer has reached a doting public of millions .
Giovanni Alleevi and Andrea Bocelli have also reached millions .
Some of whom,inspired by them, have been tempted to attend a classical music concert .People who would have never have even thought that classical music could be for them .
There is a great stigma that classical music is only for people of a certain education and upbringing but when this barrier is proved false by the classical entertainers these are in fact the people that might flock to our concerts in the future and become as passionate as Geoff and Jessie today.
Yuja Wang prodigiously gifted of course falls into the category of entertainer on this occasion.
And she certainly did that .
When Vlado Perlemuter,disciple of Ravel ,was asked by Deutsche Grammophon for some words to put on the cover of Pogorelich’s new Ravel recording he simply replied “quesque c‘est que ca!”
That Pogorelich was one of the great pianists of our time was never in discussion but that his musicianship was in discussion led to Martha Argerich walking out of the Chopin Competition in which Pogorelich was voted out by a jury that considered that musical interpretation came as important as the means to express it.
Another great discussion could be of well established musicians performing solo recitals and concertos later in life with the score .
That most recordings in the studio are recorded with the score on the stand is standard practise.
The fact is that the piano recital as we know it today was established by Franz Liszt .
The greatest showman the world has ever known .
The Mick Jagger of the piano !
Here is the very fact that show business also comes into play .
Anyone who has been to a Rubinstein recital would realise this .
It is what can create a very special rapport between public and performer where anything is possible .
A bit like the man on a tight rope
I have been to three such performances recently where even the artists performing were amazed,bewildered and astonished by what they had been inspired to produce.
It is a two way thing between public and performer and the reason we flock to their concerts.
Mariam Batshiavili in Liszt , Murray Perahia,’s Emperor and the Andsnes/Hamelin Rite of Spring all this month in London.
I sometimes wonder why the established arists feel they have to perform in public with the score when they could be so much happier in the recording studio.
Sometimes the artists having to deal with all the usual day to day things can switch on their automatic pilot and we can get a streamlined performance that does not satisfy the discerning listener or the great artist.
The only people kept happy are the agents and organisers .
Dicussions are opened on these occasions “ for and against”.
But with a really great performance such is the overwhelming atmosphere created there is absolutely no discussion necessary.
In fact a magic has been created which is the very reason we still flock to concerts.
Gilels used to liken live and recorded performances to the difference between fresh and canned food….and he certainly knew being one of the most exciting performers I have ever heard.
At this point a great artist like Arrau who felt he could not give his best would have no hesitation to cancel or Horowitz’s case retire for twelve years from the concert platform.I suppose it might be cosidered artistic integrity but also fear of not doing justice to their reputation.You are only as good as your last performance Rubinstein would often exclaim.
Curzon and Richter chose to perform with the score towards the end of their glorious careers and although they were a shadow of their former selves it was probably better than nothing .
Myra Hess towards the end of her career used to play Brahms 2 with the score and still get lost.
Alfred Cortot was asked by his wife and pupils to stop playing in public when this great artist’s performances were no longer easy for him.
The truth is to play in public is one the loneliest ,most exposed tricks of the trade and every performer deserves our utmost admiration for going through such an ordeal…………..Perlemuter used to say it was like going to the guillotine wheras Jaqueline Du Pre used to bounce with joy at the thought of joining her adoring public .
The public after all can choose who they wish to hear ………
I know who I will always choose but I fully appreciate the taste of others can be different from mine .
The spice of life so they say.
It is important that we go to the trouble of reaching the hall and for our wallet where it is so easy these days just to stay at home and switch or click on.