Mostly Slavic

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

On this episode of Reflections, David Dubal features a few golden nuggets of the endless piano literature, and with a slightly Slavic twist.

This episode begins with a triple comparative performance of the fiery Chopin Prelude in D minor played by Alfred Cortot, Shura Cherkassky, and Claudio Arrau. Each player is very different in detail.

A deeply nostalgic version of the andante movement from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26 is played eloquently by Byron Janis. The very tricky Scherzo for Piano in A-flat major by Alexander Borodin brilliantly is rendered by Vladimir Ashkenazy. He gives another comparative performance of Frederic Chopin.

 

Playlist

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 24 in D minor

Frédéric Chopin

Alfred Cortot

EMI

 

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 24 in D minor

Frédéric Chopin

Shura Cherkassky

Philips

 

Prelude for Piano, Op. 28: no 24 in D minor

Frédéric Chopin

Claudio Arrau

Philips

 

Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26; Andante

Sergei Rachmaninov

Byron Janis; Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra; Kirill Kondrashin

Philips

 

The Leprechaun's Dance No. 3 from Stanford - Four Irish Dances, arr. Grainger

Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger

Nimbus Records

 

Scherzo for Piano in A flat major

Alexander Borodin

Vladimir Ashkenazy

Philips

 

Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28

Sergei Prokofiev

Emil Gilels

Philips

 

Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29

Frédéric Chopin

Artur Rubinstein

Philips

 

Impromptu No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 29

Frédéric Chopin

Alfred Cortot

EMI

 

Piano Sonata No. 1 in C minor, Op. 4; Larghetto

Frédéric Chopin

Nikita Magaloff

Philips

 

Etude Op. 42, No. 4 in F sharp

Alexander Scriabin

Sviatoslav Richter

Philips

 

Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos in G minor, Op. 5; Tears

Sergei Rachmaninov

Lyubov Bruk & Mark Taimanov

Philips

 

Sentimental Melody

Aaron Copland

Giacomo Franci

Fonè di giulio cesare ricci

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Comments [4]

Silversalty from Brooklyn

"shape and contours"

"[Cortot] Fanciful. Daring in its rubato. Even extravagant. Let's say that the Rubenstein performance is fine prose but the Cortot is lyric poetry."

***

First of all the recording quality of these pieces seems very different. It's as if the Cortot piece was heard from a distance with the listener wearing a heavy wool cap giving undue emphasis to the deeper, more bass tones and losing much clarity.

I far preferred the Rubenstein interpretation and rendering - deciding how a piece should be played and then actually playing it that way - superbly. Cortot played it fast and allowed the notes to blur, or if you prefer, blend, into each other. Maybe one could interpret that as "lyric poetry." Not me. Rather than hunt for adjectives let's say that with the Rubenstein playing I found that I could close my eyes and allow my head and upper body to move and sway to the music, becoming more introspective as the piece changed tone midway. With the Cortot playing I got the sense of someone in my face pushing some impression much too forcefully. I needed a heavier wool cap.

Often while listening I imagine hands playing. For clarity I see hands more rounded with the fingers moving in high and long strokes, each movement distinct and easily seen. For less clarity I see a flat hand with finger movements barely discernable and often blurring into one another, overlapping in sight and actual heard sound.

This is a metaphor of course. Glenn Gould played with almost flat hands on a hair trigger keyboard - a technique he was taught.

Dec. 14 2013 05:14 PM
Fred from Queens

Well, I'm all for comparisons, and I'd love to hear more of these masters of the piano, and harpsichord, violin, etc. The focus should be the music and its interpretation rather than how many little chestnuts and excerpts we can compare in an hour.

Things seem a bit backwards here. It's the music that's played by these musicians that should be of primary interest (to most of us), as opposed to how many virtuosos you can play in an hour.

Dec. 12 2013 09:42 PM
accentpro from Valley Stream, NY

Fred from Queens, I think Dubal has a very special approach to piano music. As a singer, and formerly accomplished pianist, I enjoy hearing the comparisons.

Dec. 12 2013 08:18 PM
Fred from Queens

I just don't see how people can enjoy this kind of programming. Thirteen piano pieces and parts of works played in less than one hour. I wish Dubal would play some works of length and in their entirety with a little less talk.

Dec. 12 2013 06:37 PM

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