Saturday, January 1, 2011

A post about music (mostly pianists)

I don't write much about music here, but it's a new year and I've just quickly read R.P. Wolff's reminiscing post about music and its pleasures, so I figure: why not? But this is not going to be a comparable "the role music has played in my life" post, just a few stray thoughts/reactions.

I heard/watched (on PBS) some of the NY Philharmonic's New Year's concert last night. I tuned in during the middle of the Tchaikovsky first piano concerto, with Lang Lang. I generally like Tchaikovsky, but this piece is not one of my particular favorites; and the performance left me underwhelmed, to put it politely. I'm sure Lang Lang deserves his reputation but this didn't do a whole lot for me, and the orchestra didn't help by sounding rather sloppy and perfunctory. However, the music from the second act of The Nutcracker, performed after the intermission, was much better. This sounded like the NY Philharmonic is supposed to sound, with excellent wind and brass work.

Two other notes about pianists: I saw the new (or new-ish) movie about Glenn Gould (PBS again) not too long ago. It was interesting, as I didn't know all that much about Gould's life and don't own any of his work in my admittedly small CD collection. I knew nothing, for example, about the 1962 concert Gould played with Leonard Bernstein at which Bernstein -- yes, this actually happened -- addressed the audience with a disclaimer before conducting one of the Brahms piano concertos (I can't remember now whether it was the first or the second), dissociating himself from Gould's interpretation (which apparently took it at half the usual tempo).

Gould didn't care all that much for a lot of the Late Classical/Romantic repertoire and specifically didn't like Schumann. This may partly explain why I never have warmed up to Gould, since I like Schumann and the Romantics generally. Which leads to the last note: I recently bought a CD of Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950) playing the Schumann Concerto and Mozart No.21 (EMI Classics). The Schumann was recorded in 1948 in a studio in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra and von Karajan. The Mozart was recorded live in Switzerland in 1950. Both performances are very good.

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