Author Topic: Monthly Focus  (Read 1750 times)

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #40 on: September 11, 2020, 02:09:50 PM »
Конечно (Of course)
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline amw

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #41 on: September 12, 2020, 12:17:32 AM »
Shostakovich is tricky. Performances can be heavy on the dour for this guy, particularly ones made after his death. It's as if everyone is saying, OK, here is A Master; we must be reverent. But it's never really genuine reverence. More like lugubriousness. Reverent would respect the music, letting it be itself without needing to force it into a long-faced version of itself.

I got interested in various recordings of the piano trio nr. 2. It's a lively work, full of dance and sparkle. But you'd never know that in most recordings of it. The most interesting pair, for my thesis, are the ones the Beaux Arts did, one while Shostakovich was alive, one after he had died. The early one is the finest performance of it I've ever heard, precise, lively, moving through all the quick changes with elegance and elan. It fair crackles with spirit and liveliness. The later one is funereal. It's slow and solemn and sanctimonious. It is a pompous rendering of A Great Work by A Great Master.
I think my entire conception of this piece changed when I heard the two recordings Shostakovich himself made at the piano, both in the 1940s. He plays fast, often much faster than any modern musician would dare to, & his playing is clean and objective and completely lacking in sentimentality. The work has dry humour but also a kind of ferocious relentlessness, especially in the last movement, which recalls that his personal reaction to unjustified or premature death was always anger. The piece is a memorial, sure, but he believed death was something to be fought against, not a reason to slow down and contemplate.

I had a similar reaction to the 24 Preludes & Fugues which I got to know originally through a number of recordings made after Shostakovich's death by artists who worked with him: Tatyana Nikolayeva (the dedicatee), Vladimir Ashkenazy, individual selections by Sviatoslav Richter etc. Then I heard the complete recording by Roger Woodward, who not only attempts to emulate Shostakovich's clean, objective piano style but also takes seriously Shostakovich's notoriously fast metronome marks (even Nikolayeva's first recording, made in the presence of the composer, disregards them; Shostakovich was clearly comfortable with a wide range of interpretations of his own music). The 24 Preludes and Fugues have often been reviewed as anodyne, soporific, etc (most famously by Richard Taruskin) but while one might initially rebel at the tempi Woodward sets in the C major, as one keeps listening they're revealed to be definitely not anodyne or soporific, but rather witty, quirky, neoclassical and sometimes exceptionally violent. Even the slower movements have an inner agitation to them that keeps them moving. This is why I make a big deal about metronome marks; they do a great deal to indicate the character of a piece, even if you as the performer aren't going to follow them to the letter all the time.

(Everything by Shostakovich is generally these days performed 15-25% slower than he indicated. He is of course not the only composer with this problem.)

Offline some guy

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #42 on: September 12, 2020, 06:20:54 AM »
I think my entire conception of this piece changed when I heard the two recordings Shostakovich himself made at the piano, both in the 1940s. He plays fast, often much faster than any modern musician would dare to, & his playing is clean and objective and completely lacking in sentimentality.
I would love to hear this. Composer performances are often revelatory. (I've got it playing on youtube right now. I should probably wait until I've listened to it all the way through before posting. I will say that the sound is astonishingly good for 1946. And so far--I waited for a bit--what I'm hearing certainly bears out your conclusion.)

(Everything by Shostakovich is generally these days performed 15-25% slower than he indicated. He is of course not the only composer with this problem.)
I remember reading years ago that later performances of practically everything are slower than when the pieces were new. I have certainly noticed that recordings made by composers are often quite remarkably fast compared to later performances by others.

Offline Judith

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #43 on: October 04, 2020, 10:25:04 PM »
Well just started October's monthly focus which is a lovely Brahms Piano Sonata no 3 which is beautifully performed by Stephen Hough.  A Brahms I'm not too familiar with so want to know this work more🎹🎹🎼🎼

Offline Mandryka

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #44 on: October 24, 2020, 02:29:42 AM »
Then I heard the complete recording by Roger Woodward, who not only attempts to emulate Shostakovich's clean, objective piano style but also takes seriously Shostakovich's notoriously fast metronome marks (even Nikolayeva's first recording, made in the presence of the composer, disregards them; Shostakovich was clearly comfortable with a wide range of interpretations of his own music). The 24 Preludes and Fugues have often been reviewed as anodyne, soporific, etc (most famously by Richard Taruskin) but while one might initially rebel at the tempi Woodward sets in the C major, as one keeps listening they're revealed to be definitely not anodyne or soporific, but rather witty, quirky, neoclassical and sometimes exceptionally violent. Even the slower movements have an inner agitation to them that keeps them moving. This is why I make a big deal about metronome marks; they do a great deal to indicate the character of a piece, even if you as the performer aren't going to follow them to the letter all the time.


Yes very good, the Woodward, and an eye opener for me too, so thanks for prompting me to find it. Have you seen this?

https://asq4.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/zak-on-roger-woodwards-dsch-recordings/

(That being said I'm not sure that what The Alexander Quartet do is really like Woodward, at least in the C minor.)
« Last Edit: October 24, 2020, 02:35:07 AM by Mandryka »
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen

Offline Judith

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Re: Monthly Focus
« Reply #45 on: November 02, 2020, 02:16:24 AM »
My November focus is one of my favourite French composers Saint Saens.  Violin has been neglected recently so chosen his Violin Sonata no 1 op 75. 
Recording by Joshua Bell  and Jeremy Denk from French Impressions CD🎻🎻🎼🎼