Debussy Études

Started by Mirror Image, April 02, 2018, 06:25:35 AM

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Mirror Image

Quote from: Sergeant Rock on April 02, 2018, 06:06:13 AM
Debussy 12 Etudes and Schoenberg Drei Klavierstücke op.11 played by Uchida




Sarge

What do you make of Uchida's Études, Sarge? Rafael (ritter) absolutely loathes her performance of the work and this is a large part of what I've steered away from it, but would love to hear your take on it.

Sergeant Rock

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 02, 2018, 06:25:35 AM
What do you make of Uchida's Études, Sarge? Rafael (ritter) absolutely loathes her performance of the work and this is a large part of what I've steered away from it, but would love to hear your take on it.

If Ritter and you share a taste in Debussy performance, heed him. I can't really help you other than to say it sounds fine to me. But I'm no Debussy expert. I only know Uchida's performance.  I bought it based on positive reviews in various publications, and Jed Distler thinks highly of it:

https://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-12952/?search=1

Sarge
the phone rings and somebody says,
"hey, they made a movie about
Mahler, you ought to go see it.
he was as f*cked-up as you are."
                               --Charles Bukowski, "Mahler"

Mirror Image

Quote from: Sergeant Rock on April 02, 2018, 06:40:47 AM
If Ritter and you share a taste in Debussy performance, heed him. I can't really help you other than to say it sounds fine to me. But I'm no Debussy expert. I only know Uchida's performance.  I bought it based on positive reviews in various publications, and Jed Distler thinks highly of it:

https://www.classicstoday.com/review/review-12952/?search=1

Sarge

Ah, you see there's the rub, ritter and I do share many similarities in our Debussy preferences, but so do Dancing Divertimentian and myself. I'm not quite sure how DD feels about Uchida, but I'd love to hear from him as well. Ritter says, and I'm paraphrasing, that Uchida doesn't have the right feel for Debussy and she completely butchers the tempi throughout. Her performance is more mechanical than poetic.

ritter

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 02, 2018, 06:45:15 AM
Ah, you see there's the rub, ritter and I do share many similarities in our Debussy preferences, but so do Dancing Divertimentian and myself. I'm not quite sure how DD feels about Uchida, but I'd love to hear from him as well. Ritter says, and I'm paraphrasing, that Uchida doesn't have the right feel for Debussy and she completely butchers the tempi throughout. Her performance is more mechanical than poetic.
Yep, my impression uf Mme. Uchida's recording of the Debussy Études is more or less well described by you, John. In essence, though, what I dislike is that (to my ears at least) she turns the Études into some sort of bravura, virtuoso showpieces, and this goes against the grain. But, noblesse oblige, I'm clearly in a minority here, since (as the Sarge and--earlier--Madiel have pointed out), the recording has many admirers.

ritter
-------------------------------------------------------------
"All culture corrupts, old boy, but French culture corrupts absolutely".

SurprisedByBeauty

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 02, 2018, 06:45:15 AM
Ah, you see there's the rub, ritter and I do share many similarities in our Debussy preferences, but so do Dancing Divertimentian and myself. I'm not quite sure how DD feels about Uchida, but I'd love to hear from him as well. Ritter says, and I'm paraphrasing, that Uchida doesn't have the right feel for Debussy and she completely butchers the tempi throughout. Her performance is more mechanical than poetic.

Wasn't asked but that's never stopped me from chiming in: I find that her Debussy Etudes are the most fragrant; like something deadly straight out of Klingsor's garden. I think I probably like hers best of them all! Just recently listened to hers in comparison with a bunch of others for the Debussy vs. Debussy review.

Mirror Image

Quote from: ritter on April 02, 2018, 07:10:23 AMYep, my impression uf Mme. Uchida's recording of the Debussy Études is more or less well described by you, John. In essence, though, what I dislike is that (to my ears at least) she turns the Études into some sort of bravura, virtuoso showpieces, and this goes against the grain. But, noblesse oblige, I'm clearly in a minority here, since (as the Sarge and--earlier--Madiel have pointed out), the recording has many admirers.

Thanks for the clarification, Rafael. 8) I listened to a little bit of Uchida's Études (the first two movements) and I was kind of awestruck by the virtuosity, then I quickly listened to Jacobs in succession of the Uchida and heard what I was missing: lyricism. For me, Études isn't a showpiece for the pianist as this wasn't Debussy's intention or else I have a hunch it wasn't. Debussy did say, however, about this work: "A warning to pianists not to take up the musical profession unless they have remarkable hands". But there is musical substance in the Études, it just has to be fleshed out a bit more and I think herein lies one of the difficult aspects of the work. For all it's technical demands, the work simply doesn't come alive unless it's handled as a piece of musical poetry.

Mirror Image

Quote from: SurprisedByBeauty on April 02, 2018, 07:15:13 AM
Wasn't asked but that's never stopped me from chiming in: I find that her Debussy Etudes are the most fragrant; like something deadly straight out of Klingsor's garden. I think I probably like hers best of them all! Just recently listened to hers in comparison with a bunch of others for the Debussy vs. Debussy review.

Thanks, Jens. I did enjoy Pollini in the DG set, but I haven't heard the Aimard (yet), but I'm not too enthusiastic about Aimard's pianism in general. Jacobs is my reference performance right now, but it would probably do me some good to listen to Uchida's entire performance even if I have my own objections of how she handled the first two movements I heard.

Baron Scarpia

Quote from: ritter on April 02, 2018, 07:10:23 AM
Yep, my impression uf Mme. Uchida's recording of the Debussy Études is more or less well described by you, John. In essence, though, what I dislike is that (to my ears at least) she turns the Études into some sort of bravura, virtuoso showpieces, and this goes against the grain. But, noblesse oblige, I'm clearly in a minority here, since (as the Sarge and--earlier--Madiel have pointed out), the recording has many admirers.

With a shelf-load of Uchida recordings, I have never heard a movement performed by her that I could describe as "bravura" or "virtuoso showpiece." I'd say she has a very fine technique, which she employs to make the music sound effortless, and her general style leans towards poetic yet detached. She doesn't always hit the mark, for me, but she invariably produces something interesting.

Mirror Image

#8
Quote from: ritter on April 02, 2018, 10:51:22 AM
That's what makes this recording of the Debussy Études so frustrating to me. I think what you write describes her artistry very well, and I am an admirer of her work; her Mozart, her CD of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto under Boulez—coupled with othe 2nd Viennese School pieces—are wonderfully "poetic yet detached" as you so aptly put it. But, alas, I sense no poetry in that Debussy album. I am particularly put off by Pour les tierces, where I get the impression Mme. Uchida is asking the listener "See how fast I can play this??!!", and disfigures the muskc in the process. I insist, though, I know I'm in a minority in my appraisal of this particular recording.

EDIT (TD):

Inevitably, listening to...



From the "old" big box:

[asin]B00742LLKU[/asin]

Most interesting, Rafael. I appreciate you reiterating your stance on the Uchida Études. As I mentioned, it'll be nice to hear her take on it in it's full glory (once the recording arrives), but I have my suspicion it won't move me as much as the Jacobs recording.

ritter


After a morning workout, and a great Andalusian lunch in old Madrid (with perhaps a bit too much of manzanilla   ;)), listening to an all-time favourite composition, Debussy's Études, , in a recording by a great pianist, Charles Rosen:



From the big box:



La vie est belle!
ritter
-------------------------------------------------------------
"All culture corrupts, old boy, but French culture corrupts absolutely".

Dancing Divertimentian

Bringing this over from the WAYLT thread. If any of the Mods feel up to it, could we get the on-going conversation from there brought over here?


Quote from: Mirror Image on April 02, 2018, 06:45:15 AM
Ah, you see there's the rub, ritter and I do share many similarities in our Debussy preferences, but so do Dancing Divertimentian and myself. I'm not quite sure how DD feels about Uchida, but I'd love to hear from him as well. Ritter says, and I'm paraphrasing, that Uchida doesn't have the right feel for Debussy and she completely butchers the tempi throughout. Her performance is more mechanical than poetic.

It's a tough call in the etudes. Uchida is very much on the flamboyant side, with contrasts which run to the extremes. I like it, and she's very colorful, but she's not my go-to.

I prefer the etudes to sound more chiseled, with a modern bent. Thibaudet, and even more so, Kodama, are preferable to me. 

But overall, for chiseled and modern which leans towards the industrial-flavored, a new set by Élodie Vignon is fast becoming my preferred. It helps that sonics-wise this is one of the most impressive sounding piano recordings I've heard. The tiny label Cypres has impressed me before with their Prokofiev sonatas set, and they continue it here.

That's my two cents. :)




https://www.amazon.com/Debussy-Etudes-ELODIE-VIGNON/dp/B0788WSVNJ/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=TP40GQ4PD5AHA26VTW95
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Mirror Image

Quote from: Dancing Divertimentian on April 07, 2018, 01:01:16 PM
It's a tough call in the etudes. Uchida is very much on the flamboyant side, with contrasts which run to the extremes. I like it, and she's very colorful, but she's not my go-to.

I prefer the etudes to sound more chiseled, with a modern bent. Thibaudet, and even more so, Kodama, are preferable to me. 

But overall, for chiseled and modern which leans towards the "industrial-flavored", a new set by Élodie Vignon is fast becoming my preferred. It helps that sonics-wise this is one of the most impressive sounding piano recordings I've heard. The tiny label Cypres has impressed me before with their Prokofiev sonatas set, and they continue it here.

That's my two cents. :)




Thanks, DD. 8) Right now, Jacobs is my man for the Études. In regards to Uchida, I wrote a mini-review to a friend about what I thought of her performance:

I remain rather puzzled by this recording and it's what appears to be universal praise. There's no question that Ms. Uchida is an outstanding pianist and that she's more than up for the technical demands this work places upon it's performer, but there's something missing in her interpretation. One problem is the blazingly fast tempi she employs at various points. They simply don't work for me. Also, her performance sounds rather half-hearted compared to other performances I've heard. This work is much more than mere piano exercises, but I got the impression that this is all Ms. Uchida thinks the music is. One listen to Paul Jacobs' recording on Nonesuch quickly confirms that the Études is, in fact, a work of much substance.

Dancing Divertimentian

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 07, 2018, 07:11:24 PM
Thanks, DD. 8) Right now, Jacobs is my man for the Études. In regards to Uchida, I wrote a mini-review to a friend about what I thought of her performance:

I remain rather puzzled by this recording and it's what appears to be universal praise. There's no question that Ms. Uchida is an outstanding pianist and that she's more than up for the technical demands this work places upon it's performer, but there's something missing in her interpretation. One problem is the blazingly fast tempi she employs at various points. They simply don't work for me. Also, her performance sounds rather half-hearted compared to other performances I've heard. This work is much more than mere piano exercises, but I got the impression that this is all Ms. Uchida thinks the music is. One listen to Paul Jacobs' recording on Nonesuch quickly confirms that the Études is, in fact, a work of much substance.

I wouldn't exactly say Uchida is stuck in one gear in this work, but there are others I prefer.
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Mirror Image

Quote from: Dancing Divertimentian on April 07, 2018, 08:04:38 PM
I wouldn't exactly say Uchida is stuck in one gear in this work, but there are others I prefer.

Perhaps I'm just being harsh on Uchida but it's just a conclusion I've come to after listening to Jacobs' recording several times.

Speaking of Jacobs, I wrote a review of his recording, which some may, or may not, agree with:

Title: Astonishing "Études" From Paul Jacobs!

Pianist Paul Jacobs (1930 - 1983) was one of the great pianists of our time. Within his short life, he managed to record some revelatory performances and this 1975 recording on Nonesuch should be a mandatory purchase for anyone who loves Debussy's music. Granted, I have not heard every single recording of "Études" on the market, but I've heard a few so far: Aimard, Pollini, and Planès. None of these pianists hold a candle to Jacobs. Not because he's so much better than these pianists technically, but because he manages to dig much deeper and the end result is truly personal and, most of all, poetic. The first time I heard this work, truth be told, I wasn't enamored with the music. To these untrained ears, the whole work sounded like an endless array of piano exercises. How ignorant I was! When I heard Pollini's performance on DG, the lightbulb went off and I realized that this work is much more than difficult piano exercises, there is heart and soul in this music, it just wasn't revealing itself and it didn't fully reveal itself until I heard the Jacobs. I finally heard what I believed to be missing even in Pollini, a musical narrative. It then occurred to me that Debussy wouldn't simply compose something like this without giving it musical substance as I've already heard all of Debussy's other piano music, which is quite different from the "Études". This is late Debussy (the work was composed in 1915) and his later music doesn't always present itself as easily as his early to middle period works. In many ways, Debussy's late music is some of the most compelling music in the 20th Century. I think too much emphasis is put on what he achieved with say "Pelléas et Mélisande" or "La Mer" for example then what he achieved with "Jeux" or the sonatas, which are all masterpieces. The same attention has been given to his piano works like "Images, Series I & II", "Préludes, Books I & II", and "Children's Corner", but his last piano work "Études" doesn't get the attention it deserves in my opinion. Anyway, enough about this, just buy this recording!

Special note: The performance of the two piano work "En blanc et noir" can be found in better performances elsewhere. I highly recommend Coombs and Scott on Hyperion as this Jacobs/Kalish performance is marred by subpar audio quality as it was taken from a rather noisy live performance.

Dancing Divertimentian

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 07, 2018, 08:21:45 PM
Perhaps I'm just being harsh on Uchida but it's just a conclusion I've come to after listening to Jacobs' recording several times.

Speaking of Jacobs, I wrote a review of his recording, which some may, or may not, agree with:

Title: Astonishing "Études" From Paul Jacobs!

Pianist Paul Jacobs (1930 - 1983) was one of the great pianists of our time. Within his short life, he managed to record some revelatory performances and this 1975 recording on Nonesuch should be a mandatory purchase for anyone who loves Debussy's music. Granted, I have not heard every single recording of "Études" on the market, but I've heard a few so far: Aimard, Pollini, and Planès. None of these pianists hold a candle to Jacobs. Not because he's so much better than these pianists technically, but because he manages to dig much deeper and the end result is truly personal and, most of all, poetic. The first time I heard this work, truth be told, I wasn't enamored with the music. To these untrained ears, the whole work sounded like an endless array of piano exercises. How ignorant I was! When I heard Pollini's performance on DG, the lightbulb went off and I realized that this work is much more than difficult piano exercises, there is heart and soul in this music, it just wasn't revealing itself and it didn't fully reveal itself until I heard the Jacobs. I finally heard what I believed to be missing even in Pollini, a musical narrative. It then occurred to me that Debussy wouldn't simply compose something like this without giving it musical substance as I've already heard all of Debussy's other piano music, which is quite different from the "Études". This is late Debussy (the work was composed in 1915) and his later music doesn't always present itself as easily as his early to middle period works. In many ways, Debussy's late music is some of the most compelling music in the 20th Century. I think too much emphasis is put on what he achieved with say "Pelléas et Mélisande" or "La Mer" for example then what he achieved with "Jeux" or the sonatas, which are all masterpieces. The same attention has been given to his piano works like "Images, Series I & II", "Préludes, Books I & II", and "Children's Corner", but his last piano work "Études" doesn't get the attention it deserves in my opinion. Anyway, enough about this, just buy this recording!

Special note: The performance of the two piano work "En blanc et noir" can be found in better performances elsewhere. I highly recommend Coombs and Scott on Hyperion as this Jacobs/Kalish performance is marred by subpar audio quality as it was taken from a rather noisy live performance.

Yes, great write-up, MI. I agree, the part in red gets to the heart of appreciating the etudes (and Jeux). I need to try to sample Jacobs. I'll be heading over to YouTube soon.
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Mandryka

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 07, 2018, 07:11:24 PM
This work is much more than mere piano exercises, but I got the impression that this is all Ms. Uchida thinks the music is.

Absolutely not and she's quite explicit about this in an interview here

https://www.youtube.com/v/oYbgaPNjG3k

My notes made years ago on the interview say

- show quoted text -
Thanks. An outstanding interview.

QuoteInteresting comments on Chopin vs Debussy (Chopin = endurance tests, Debussy = beautiful music); on the Debussy piano vs modern piano (modern piano heavy, Debussy needs lightness); on  Debussy and freedom which I didn't understand; Debussy as an intellectual composer rather than a soulful one like Schubert; a really amusing account of the first etude (d'après Czerny)-- I wish there was more stuff like that, though people who play piano may get more than enough of it from their teachers!
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Mirror Image

Quote from: Dancing Divertimentian on April 07, 2018, 10:28:49 PM
Yes, great write-up, MI. I agree, the part in red gets to the heart of appreciating the etudes (and Jeux). I need to try to sample Jacobs. I'll be heading over to YouTube soon.

Thanks, DD. I think you'll dig Jacobs' performance. His recording of Études is now one of my favorite Debussy discs.

Mandryka

This is a performance I like, it's Pollini in Vienna in 1986, he clearly was on something that night because he's incandescent,  it used to be on a CD, not DG but some small label,  but I think it may be hard to find.

https://www.youtube.com/v/s1KXcP7Xd6s
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Ainsi la nuit

Quote from: Mirror Image on April 07, 2018, 07:11:24 PMThis work is much more than mere piano exercises, but I got the impression that this is all Ms. Uchida thinks the music is.

You are of course welcome to have any opinion on Uchida's recording of the set, but to say that she sees the études as mere piano exercises is a serious misunderstanding of her vision of the work. The interview linked above - also easy to find with a quick YouTube search - might give some insight into her decision to perform the pieces the way she does. Note that this is not meant to change your opinion or anything like that; I just feel like Uchida deserves a fair chance to at least explain herself when faced with such a claim. I don't think she thinks much about the virtuosity in any music she plays, she's much more serious than that. She did once state that the Debussy études aren't very difficult to her from a technical point of view - feelings of envy arose within this amateur pianist as I heard that - but that has of course nothing to do with her interpretation.

I personally adore Uchida's deservedly famous recording, but there are of course many others and no individual interpretation can fully reveal all of the brilliance of this, in my humble opinion, greatest set of études ever written.

Mirror Image

Quote from: Ainsi la nuit on April 20, 2018, 04:25:20 PM
You are of course welcome to have any opinion on Uchida's recording of the set, but to say that she sees the études as mere piano exercises is a serious misunderstanding of her vision of the work. The interview linked above - also easy to find with a quick YouTube search - might give some insight into her decision to perform the pieces the way she does. Note that this is not meant to change your opinion or anything like that; I just feel like Uchida deserves a fair chance to at least explain herself when faced with such a claim. I don't think she thinks much about the virtuosity in any music she plays, she's much more serious than that. She did once state that the Debussy études aren't very difficult to her from a technical point of view - feelings of envy arose within this amateur pianist as I heard that - but that has of course nothing to do with her interpretation.

I personally adore Uchida's deservedly famous recording, but there are of course many others and no individual interpretation can fully reveal all of the brilliance of this, in my humble opinion, greatest set of études ever written.

We'll just have to agree to disagree here about Uchida's Études. I watched some of the video (not all of it), and while it's great to witness a pianist explain their approach to a work, it still doesn't alter my own perspective and opinion of what I heard and what I came away feeling from her performance. Personally, I haven't heard anyone that touches me more than Jacobs.