Author Topic: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!  (Read 9025 times)

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Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2014, 11:06:41 AM »
even the very Chopinesque left hand playing around seven minutes.
Curious what you meant here since there is a difference of usage in the word Chopinesque...
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Offline Todd

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2014, 12:13:48 PM »
Curious what you meant here since there is a difference of usage in the word Chopinesque...



Here I mean that the playing reminds me of the bass ostinato in Chopin's Op 53. 
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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2014, 01:42:56 PM »
Thank you very much, Brian, for this comparison. I always liked Funérailles, but had not listened to it for a while. It was a piece by Liszt I listened a number of times when I was younger, and it is with pleasure that I heard it again.

Unfortunately, I don't think I will share precise thoughts here, recent experiences on the forum told me that people are a little touchy when you're going to attack an interpretation on the piano. And I can't compare these versions without being quite harsh with the others. There's actually only one of the 5 versions I found  not only good in every aspects (which it is), but simply valid. The other 4 suffer from different issues, for instance the dynamics are really limited.
Take the first 2-3 pages, before the lunga pausa. It starts fortissimo and pesante on the left hand. Right hand starts only mf, and must sound like "behind" the bass, and with still slight variations in dynamics, but not too spectacular, as only with bars 6-10 comes the crescendo molto, up to fortissimo. And then only with the più crescendo are we supposed to go to fff. Most of the versions of this comparison get to a kind of ff before the end of first page and then simply stay there. Some also start with a mf left hand and a forte right one, and that is just the opposite of what Liszt was thinking about.
There's also the pesante, and its meaning. I don't think Liszt would have written pesante if he wanted the initial bass marcato, percussive. On the contrary, pesante evokes... Well, how does a funeral procession walk? Slowly, heavily, not without difficulties, and with a trailing pace. Pesante is therefore an indication of tempo, and even more of agogics. Only one pianist among the five, again, thinks about that and understands this indication as it should be.

So, after the introduction already, only one version exploits all the richness of the score. Fortunately he does so all along and his reading is one of the most brilliant I've heard. The other pianists fight with their own limitations. Except one maybe, who prefers to do his own thing, and actually not badly. But even considering his version "interesting", there are still three others to deal with. And I couldn't do it without using strong words and sharp sentences. And I guess it is preferable to avoid that.

I did not recognize any of the 5, maybe because I did not hear this piece for a long time.

Offline André

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2014, 02:19:49 PM »
Discobolus, you ought to at least tell us which one is the correct lisztian interpretation  ;). I haven't listened to the links for the simple reason that my computer is not equipped with any decent listening device. It actually sits in another room of the house, and I wouldn't want to listen to such a sonorous work on a puny computer speaker. But I certainly follow this thread with interest, as Funérailles is one of my favourite works on the piano.

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #24 on: December 21, 2014, 04:21:34 PM »
Lol. Sorry. Replace "fortissimo" by "forte" on almost every occasion above. My mistake. I was (and am) tired :(

I agree that broader variations in dynamics in the first bars are not a big issue (even if I do prefer them not too spectacular either), but I think that if after only 2-3 bars into the first crescendo molto we already reach a ceiling, then it's a problem. And respecting the different indications for each hand is essential.

To some extent, yes, I believe the pesante is an indication of pace that applies in particular to the left hand and not to the right one. It is not unlikely from Liszt, on the contrary, as there's always a technical point he's making while writing music, I think it is the case here. Allowing hands to have, if not actually a different tempo, a different conception of time. I said agogics, because it is related to it at least, but it's also true it's not really agogics either as that would involve both hands at the same time. Texture? As a result, yes, could be, but there's a technical reason to it and it is this capacity of the pianist to have a pesante, slow, even slowing down left hand, when the right hand comes from behind with its idée fixe in place of a melody. It's rather descriptive and metaphysical at the same time, even in a naive or superficial way, an almost straussian one.

Offline amw

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2014, 11:35:44 PM »
Unfortunately, I don't think I will share precise thoughts here,
You could send them to Brian as a PM if you'd like to participate, some people have done that in the past. These comparisons are no fun without recordings getting trashed ;)

(Just watching here, not lisztening. Not my thing)

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2014, 04:51:08 AM »
Thank you very much, Brian, for this comparison. I always liked Funérailles, but had not listened to it for a while. It was a piece by Liszt I listened a number of times when I was younger, and it is with pleasure that I heard it again.

Unfortunately, I don't think I will share precise thoughts here, recent experiences on the forum told me that people are a little touchy when you're going to attack an interpretation on the piano. And I can't compare these versions without being quite harsh with the others. There's actually only one of the 5 versions I found  not only good in every aspects (which it is), but simply valid. The other 4 suffer from different issues, for instance the dynamics are really limited.
Take the first 2-3 pages, before the lunga pausa. It starts fortissimo and pesante on the left hand. Right hand starts only mf, and must sound like "behind" the bass, and with still slight variations in dynamics, but not too spectacular, as only with bars 6-10 comes the crescendo molto, up to fortissimo. And then only with the più crescendo are we supposed to go to fff. Most of the versions of this comparison get to a kind of ff before the end of first page and then simply stay there. Some also start with a mf left hand and a forte right one, and that is just the opposite of what Liszt was thinking about.
There's also the pesante, and its meaning. I don't think Liszt would have written pesante if he wanted the initial bass marcato, percussive. On the contrary, pesante evokes... Well, how does a funeral procession walk? Slowly, heavily, not without difficulties, and with a trailing pace. Pesante is therefore an indication of tempo, and even more of agogics. Only one pianist among the five, again, thinks about that and understands this indication as it should be.

So, after the introduction already, only one version exploits all the richness of the score. Fortunately he does so all along and his reading is one of the most brilliant I've heard. The other pianists fight with their own limitations. Except one maybe, who prefers to do his own thing, and actually not badly. But even considering his version "interesting", there are still three others to deal with. And I couldn't do it without using strong words and sharp sentences. And I guess it is preferable to avoid that.

I did not recognize any of the 5, maybe because I did not hear this piece for a long time.
By not sharing your views in their entirety, you take away our ability to discuss it with you. Their are worse interpretations of doing so (of not sharing them), so I would urge you to share your views in full (or you rob us of the chance to learn, regardless of whether we agree).

Be kind to your fellow posters!!

Offline Brian

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2014, 05:45:55 AM »
I think we can all be polite, reasonable, and smart enough to discuss our differences of opinion with references to the music and our own tastes, and without insulting or doubting anybody's good judgment. :)

Also, the deadline is technically in a few minutes, but if I do not post the results until I return from work tonight, you may continue to listen blindly until then!

Offline Brian

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2014, 07:45:15 PM »
Results!

Actual Rankings
I assigned points on this scheme: 1st place = 1pt, 5th place = 5pts. So the fewest points wins, like golf.

Pianists #1, #3, and #5 actually tied with 16 points each. Then, slightly ahead, we have pianist #4 (13pts) and pianist #2 (12pts). So pianist #2 is technically the winner by averages. Scherzian's favorite was #1, Neal and Pim's favorite was #5, Todd's favorite was #4, and jfdrex's favorite was #3. Nobody chose pianist #2 as their favorite, but 4/5 people made it their second favorite.

So you know what? I'll just ID the pianists in order and let you draw your own conclusions. :)

Pianist #1
"Absolutely fabulous!... 'aristocratic' ...I'm amazed at the clarity of the three (sometimes four) voices on the RH; the piano playing is so firm and clear-voiced here that it is as easy to `follow' the unfolding of the intertwined harmonic lines through time as it is to listen to a linear, uni-dimensional melody. Fiorentino?" - Scherzian
"Chopinesque quality" - Neal
"almost succeeded in turning me off to the Funerailles completely.  First impression:  Dull, plodding, lethargic, lugubrious, shapeless, lifeless, jarringly percussive. Arrau? Bolet?" - jfdrex
"everything ok, but not convincing for me." - Pim
"a bit formal in the middle section.  I ultimately want something more elastic." - Todd

Pianist #1 is ...



Sergio Fiorentino

Pianist #2 (and technically the winner)
"urgent feel in the climaxes.  The slower and softer passages offer more what I listen for.  More tonal luster would be nice, but it's still really good stuff." - Todd
"deep, sculptured, sometimes quite liberal dynamics, nuances and accents, and a music that amply breathes when (I think) the music should be made to breathe....This is great playing, but IMO not nearly as refined and mercurial as version No.1" - Scherzian
"Becomes better after repeated hearing." - Pim
"This pianist gains my attention immediately, and holds it from start to finish.  A powerful keyboard virtuoso as well as an intensely musical thinker who isn't afraid to take risks, this pianist brings out the inner life of the piece very well. Richter? Horowitz?" - jfdrex
"Still, I like the feeling of this one (if a bit too hard hitting of the keys at times)." - Neal

Pianist #2 is...



Vera Gornostaeva

Pianist #3
"proof that strict, `classical' bounds do not impede a compelling, powerful, and sometimes even overwhelming projection of such an `über-Romantic' piece" - Scherzian
"Some technical issues though and here everything seems to lack transparency. Painful to listen to." - Neal
"Chopinesque, almost Mozartian.  Very lyrical, songful, even sunny" - jfdrex
"clean and weak to my ears. Not enough of the emotional tension that's in the piece." - Pim
"The middle section is perhaps just a bit too rushed at times, and the playing never assumes massive scale, yet everything works well overall" - Todd

Pianist #3 is...



Arthur Rubinstein

Pianist #4
"Freedom in every regard – this is Liszt, after all – married to mastery of the keys....indulgent." - Todd
"In a way, musical time feels overly compact here, and I'm quite a bit frustrated about this." - Scherzian
"played a bit fast, but the apotheosis around 1.27 is great" - Pim
"idiosyncratic, free, spontaneous-sounding, elastic...Cherkassky? Cziffra?" - jfdrex
"Oddly, I am reminded of silent movies when something bad happens and everyone is upset" - Neal

Pianist #4 is...



Herbert Schuch

Pianist #5
"I don't like this one much... harsh, percussive" - Scherzian
"almost Chopinesque manner, which I liked. It also reminds me a bit of Debussy. It's a very controlled performance." - Neal
"A very calculated, precise, controlled—too controlled?--performance....I'd guess that it's a young (or young-ish) modern virtuoso of high repute, on the order of Kissin, for example." - jfdrex
"little details such as the staccato left hand phrases are very nice, great apotheosis around 1.45, very beautiful and convincing throughout" - Pim
"Keyboard mastery is obvious, it's just not really to my taste." - Todd

Pianist #5 is...



Yevgeny Sudbin

Offline Brian

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #29 on: December 22, 2014, 07:53:04 PM »
Until this week, Vera Gornostaeva had only been mentioned twice in GMG history. She's still alive, but retired. She studied with Heinrich Neuhaus, the same teacher who gave us Richter and Gilels. But she never joined the Communist Party, and she was open about her religious beliefs, which made her very unpopular with the Soviet regime. Requests to travel to the western world were denied, and Gornostaeva never got to record for a single western label.* Instead she became a teacher, and her students include Ivo Pogorelich, Sergei Babayan, Alexander Paley, and Vadym Kholodenko.

This particular performance is a live recording from October 3, 1979. A small label called LP Classics is releasing a series of her live recordings and I intend to buy all of them.

If anything, the "Wanderer Fantasy" on the disc is even better than the Liszt. Likewise, the Herbert Schuch recording comes from a brilliantly-chosen recital where Bach sits side-by-side with Murail and Messiaen. Yevgeny Sudbin here shows the kind of wildness which makes his Ravel Gaspard grotesque fun, his Chopin a bracing, furious acquired taste, his Haydn frustrating and perverse, and his Scriabin hypnotically weird.

*EDIT: Wikipedia says that Gornostaeva recorded for Philips. However, I can find no other internet evidence for this; all the other results for her name + Philips are people quoting Wikipedia.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 07:58:45 PM by Brian »

Offline Todd

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #30 on: December 22, 2014, 07:58:52 PM »
Until this week, Vera Gornostaeva had only been mentioned twice in GMG history...and her students include Ivo Pogorelich, Sergei Babayan...



Pogorelich and Babayan?  I think I need some of her stuff.  Looks like a rare LvB twofer from her is out there, too.  Hmm.
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Offline jfdrex

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #31 on: December 23, 2014, 02:47:33 PM »
Brian, many thanks for organizing this lightning round and for selecting five pianists who each create a very different sound world and fascinating contrasts to one another.  I must say I'm immensely pleased with myself for blindly singling out Rubinstein as my favorite, even if his performance was not entirely "Lisztian." :)

I must also admit that this was my first encounter with Vera Gornostaeva, an encounter for which I'm grateful.  "Discovering a Legend" indeed!  I look forward to exploring her work further; I only regret (as I'm sure others do) that she recorded so little.  As I write this, I'm listening to her performance of the three Brahms Intermezzi op. 117:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/S7gWpt7tK7w" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/S7gWpt7tK7w</a>

To be followed by the four Ballades of Chopin:

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/v/-4GbVVWTVTs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" class="bbc_link bbc_flash_disabled new_win">https://www.youtube.com/v/-4GbVVWTVTs</a>

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #32 on: December 23, 2014, 04:37:48 PM »
Very interesting mix indeed! Will have to explore some of them further...

Thanks again for organizing it!
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Offline André

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #33 on: December 24, 2014, 09:38:14 AM »
Based on PMs and other comments I ordered the Rubinstein a couple of days ago. I think his honesty, allied to his cultured sound and high-romantic temperament are a winning mixture in Liszt.

I only have Arrau and Zimmerman in Funérailles, so this should provide a different POV.

Offline Pim

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Re: Blind comparison LIGHTNING ROUND: Liszt's Funérailles!
« Reply #34 on: December 25, 2014, 11:18:07 AM »
Very interesting comparison. Thanks Brian!
I will explore what I can find of Vera Gornostaeva, listen to Sudbin, and relisten to Rubinstein whose recording I have done 'some' injustice (who said some time ago that in comparisons the more extreme or wilful interpretations tend to stand out? I'll try to keep that in mind next time).