[lit-ideas] Re: The World Ends

  • From: Eric Yost <mr.eric.yost@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 03 Sep 2009 01:53:10 -0400

Donal: I would be interested in Eric's view of Kempff's 1950s versions of Beethoven's piano sonatas. I think they have something v. special. The Brendel versions are of course better recorded technically {and are great, bear in mind we are of kind arguing about Brazil 1970 against Holland 1974; btw, no question if you ask} but remind me of Eric's comments about the overall dryness of a certain kind of technically perfect performance which misses the heart of the music.

In my opinion, Kempff is one of the best Beethoven performers recorded. The 1950s versions combine a stronger technique and most of his famous so-called "1960s" tone. I understand why you asked that question about "overall dryness" -- Kempff usually doesn't go for intense tempi and his performances may feel facile at first hearing-- but Kempff isn't just playing notes. He lures the listener into a (highly distinctive) daydream inside the music.

Yet the heart of a piece can be found in many ways; for example, compare Walter Gieseking's Waldstein with Kempff's ... big difference but they're both spot on. Then listen to (pulling a name out of a hat) Ashkenazy's Waldstein on Decca. Or listen to Josef Hoffman's version of the Moonlight Sonata side-by-side with Kempff's, then listen to Ashkenazy's on that same Decca compilation.

I don't really know what makes for that "authentic" quality of performance. Take it for granted that those musicians are so good they think in harmonic structure when they perform, and are not just aware of what notes come next. Take it for granted that they have performed these pieces for years before recording them. It still doesn't explain it. Practice doesn't explain it. The much-touted "piano lineage" (student-of-student-of, etc.) doesn't explain it. Mechanics (type of instrument, fast-or-slow action, fingerings, posture, etc.) doesn't explain it. Maybe it's the deepest love sounding. I don't know, but I do know it is a real phenomena in musical performance -- and its existence gives the lie to many relativist claims in aesthetics. It's there and it's the best and the rest are lesser.

About to google Oasis,

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: