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Todd reviews Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)
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Todd reviews Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)

Stereophile Forums: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas; Or: A whole lotta cycles!
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http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=4414&page=0&fpart=all&vc=1

[This is the second complete cycle to have recorded. Schnabel's was the
first and Kempff's was the third. Kempff did record most of them on
acoustic and electrical 78s. My Kempff discography can be found at
http://www.panix.com/~checker/kempff.htm. al-Brendel's for Vox was the
fourth and Kempff's stereo remake the fifth. The first three are my own
favorites by far, though I have not heard that many others.]

by Todd#5736 - 03/12/06 11:42 AM (67.2.42.161)

Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)

To my mind the biggest hole in my Beethoven sonata collection has
been the absence of Wilhelm Backhaus. Ive had a solitary disc of
his stereo cycle for a while, and the recordings on that disc all
compare very favorably to anyone. Indeed, until hearing Friedrich
Guldas monumental Amadeo recording of the Tempest sonata, I more or
less found Backhaus the best in that sonata. Clearly I had to hear
what the old German master had to say, as it were, in this most
august solo piano repertoire. Determined to hear his take on the
32, I then had to decide which of the two cycles, the mono cycle or
the stereo cycle. Since Backhaus was already in his late 60s by the
time of his mono set, I figured I should go for that one. While he
certainly displays a more than adequate technique in the stereo
disc I own, I figured hed be closer to his prime in the mono
recordings. So I found it and bought it and have started listening
to it.

1. Getting things underway with the first sonata finds a curious
recording. Backhaus is somewhat slow to start, and is extremely
serious, with little in the way of charm. Gradually he picks up the
pace, but he never shakes a slightly mannered, unsmiling sound. The
Adagio is deliberate, but now a bit of feeling is infused into the
playing, bringing it to life. Backhaus varies dynamics and color
nicely, though he never adopts extremes, and he never sounds
especially beautiful. The third movement is even more varied and
buoyant and almost irresistible. The final movement starts as the
first one did a bit slow and mannered; it sounds consciously carved
and not freely flowing. Its never heavy, never ponderous, but never
really nice and fiery. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the recording.

2. The second sonata opens in a more jovial mood, though its still not
free. It sounds very deliberately planned and played. The Largo is
relatively fast and shows a greater degree of flexibility, but only
within a well-defined range, and it displays a fine tone. All of
this combines to create an insistent, march-like sound. The Scherzo
is light and fast, articulate and infectious. One just sits
spellbound by the playing. The concluding movement is light and
varied, but it maintains an underlying seriousness. Backhaus may be
smiling, but its a forced smile.

3. As I started the third sonata I thought I had Backhaus pegged: hes
deadly serious much like Gulda and plays within a defined, limited
range, but plays as well as can be. But then he throws a curve
ball. The work opens in more or less standard fashion, but then
Backhaus just tears into the work, spinning off notes in a
dazzling, dizzying way, just to slow way down for a bit to
highlight a passage, and then returning to a high-speed,
high-impact style. He plays almost recklessly fast at times. His
rubato, his whole style betrays his heritage; he was born in the
1880s, after all. Why should he just stick to a specific approach?
Anyway, the Adagio is generally quite fast, and is filled with
subtle coloring and rubato to bring it to life. Its not the most
moving reading Ive heard, but it is very effective. The Scherzo
continues the quick playing that Backhaus adopts through the work,
but despite the speed, or perhaps because of it, everything just
flows together beautifully. So of course it should not be
surprising to learn that the final movement is fast, but Backhaus
keeps it all under control.

4. Okay, so now I had him pegged, I thought: hes serious and allows
himself generous leeway in tempi, though he tends to play fast. The
Op 7 sonata had other things in store. The opening movement is
actually played relatively slow, and while I like that, I also
prefer a more relaxed sound, which this does not have. Yet I like
it. A lot. Backhaus basically allows himself the flexibility to do
whatever he wants, whenever he wants. His playing takes on an
almost erratic feel. The Largo just reinforces this. It is a bit
stiff throughout and a bit graceless in spots, and Backhaus tone
varies a lot, too. For a while its lean and stripped down, then its
richer and softer, then bright and hard. These changes can last for
mere seconds or for entire passages. It all depends. The Allegro
continues along this unpredictable path by being extremely
well-paced and quite lovely in parts. The final movement is
something of a marvel. Backhaus starts off fast and plays most of
the work quickly, but hell slow down to savor a beautiful passage
when he deems it appropriate. But hes a bit inconsistent. You think
you know when hell do it, but he doesnt. After repeated listens
(which Im absolutely confident this work will get) Ill know what to
expect, but the first run through is filled with surprises.

[The final minute and a half of the stereo remake of No. 4 is one of the
glories of recorded music, the way it lifts into the empyrean.]

5. The first of the Op 10 sonatas displays Backhaus traits well. The
opening movement is just a tad on the slow, rich side he certainly
doesnt rush the opener like his contemporary Schnabel yet it all
works splendidly. The piece moves along with an irresistible flow
that just sounds right. The Adagio is beautiful and moving, yet
even here he cant seem to leave well enough alone. He cuts some
chords short, seemingly for no reason, slightly dampening the
overall effect. But fortunately not much. The final movement opens
very slowly then builds up speed, and then alternates tempi through
to the end. Backhaus delivery is different than anyone else Ive
heard, yet it all works so well I cant offer a single serious
complaint.

6. The second sonata again begins slowly I think I detect a pattern
but then, out of the blue, Backhaus speeds up not a little, but a
lot. He repeats this pattern a few times, and each time it sounds a
bit frazzled though always under control. The second movement is
quick, articulate, and possesses a serious, contemplative sound.
The third movement, shorn of its repeat, sounds amazingly light and
carefree. All these disjointed elements work to create a slightly
off-kilter feel, but one that jells and works exceedingly well.

7. The final sonata of the group offers playing that almost turns the
work into a miniature drama. The first movement sounds natural.
Nothing is rushed, nothing is out of place; everything is free and
flexible and sounds very attractive. The second movement starts in
a flowing, attractive, yet serious manner, only to be transformed
by some urgent, unsettled playing, changing the whole mood. Why?
One wonders, but as Backhaus reverts to a more conventional take,
it just seems to make sense, even though it cannot be properly
described. The third movement is more upbeat and vital, though even
it has some unique moments. The final movement opens with some
surprisingly tender playing, then moves to a free, open sound, but
then it, too, shifts again, to a more serious, contemplative sound,
before shifting yet again. What is Backhaus getting at? I for one
must listen again to try to figure it out. It is a remarkable
recording.

8. So now comes the Pathetique. I figured Backhaus would go for fast,
vital, and pointed approach. Nope. The piece actually opens softly,
with some weaker than expected chords and slower than expected
runs. But an anticipatory, subdued nervous feeling makes itself
known and persists. Backhaus slowly and carefully builds up
tension, but he never releases it, rather choosing to let it abate
but never disappear. The cumulative effect is engrossing. One waits
to hear what happens next. The second movement never really goes
too slow or too deep, but rather focuses on maintaining that
subdued and unreleased tension. The finale offers more of the same,
and Backhaus just never lets loose like he obviously can. Its a bit
maddening, really, and Backhaus is obviously playing it a bit safe,
a bit comfortable. But for the life of me, it works! Indeed, I can
think of few recordings I like a lot more.

9-10. I came upon the Op 14 sonatas ready for glossed over recordings
acting as a bridge to the bigger works to come. Backhaus style
seems better suited to bigger, more serious works. Or so I thought.
These recordings are quite possibly the greatest Ive heard of these
two works. The first sonata opens familiarly: its just a smidgeon
slower than I usually prefer, but then turns fast, then slow, then
fast again, then slow again, all seamlessly and effortlessly. Its
relaxed. Its cheery. Its spiffy. The second movement is just about
perfect: its perfectly paced with perfect dynamics and perfect
tone. Its light and refreshing and amazing. The final movement is,
well, its friggin perfect. Marvelous, articulate fingerwork and
perfect weight (not too much) combined with a free and flexible
style out of a past age all combine to make it perfect. The second
sonata isnt quite played to the same level of perfection, but its
close. The slightly cutting sound cannot mask the marvelously light
and flexible playing of the first movement. Despite a bit of
brittleness, the second movement is just peachy: light, charming,
and tender, it captivates with each wonderful note. To finish off
the work is a plucky n ducky and effortless final movement, with
Backhaus deploying his rubato subtly and discreetly and most
effectively. These two recordings offer some serious fun. Amazing.

Even in the first ten sonatas it is clear that this is Beethoven
playing on an altogether higher level than most pianists ever
achieve. When I consider the two excellent cycles I just finished,
Lucchesini and Lipkin, they merely serve to underscore just how
good Backhaus is. I said of Lipkin that even when I disagree with
his choices, he still makes the piece work. With Backhaus, while
some playing here and there may not sound ideal at first, he makes
me realize that he is right and I a knave for even questioning his
judgment. His Beethoven sounds right and sounds, as much as I
dislike this description, natural. This is how Beethoven should
sound. Finally, Friedrich Gulda has been matched. Maybe even Annie.
I must hear more to know for sure.
Some quick words on sound. The recordings show their age. Some
distortion and breakup can be heard in places, and some upper
register notes have an unpleasant ring to them (its definitely the
recording and not the playing), but overall the sound is more than
acceptable given the age of the recordings.


11. Would Backhaus sound as impressive in the next batch? I wondered.
It took almost no time at all to hear the answer: Yes! The Op 22
sonata can be a difficult one to pull off successfully, and there
are a number of ways to do it. Backhaus finds his own way. The
opening movement is taken at a nice clip, alert and flexible, but
not too quick. The second movement is quite marvelous. Theres a
relaxed feel about it, but also a sort of less-is-more approach. It
seems stripped down, with little in the way of showiness or excess
anything. The third movement finds Backhaus really digging in,
hammering out the notes with notable strength and force, but he
never devolves into mere banging; there is sense of control and
ultimate restraint. Its quite nice. The final movement is tense and
not ideally flowing, but, in Backhaus conception, caps off yet
another fine recording.

12. The Op 26 sonata opens in glorious fashion. Backhaus playing of the
Andante theme is the epitome of direct, unaffected Beethoven
playing, with everything sounding so right that complaints are
frivolous. As the variations begin, the playing changes to a more
austere, almost hard sound, but even that works. The Scherzo is
driven, and rather charmless, but still, particularly in this work,
effective. The funeral march is very solemn and very serious, but
its not big or grand or especially funereal, nor is it effective as
a march. Yet the solemnity makes the movement. Backhaus chooses to
end this serious, almost dour interpretation with a final movement
that is harder and more serious than is usually ideal, but not
here.

13. Time for the first of the Sonatas quasi una fantasia. Would
Backhaus be fantastic or something else, something sterner?
Something sterner is the answer, at least initially. The piece
opens in a serious, almost heavy way, hardly creating a fantastic
or partially fantastic sound world, yet it sounds appealing. Then
Backhaus transitions to an almost blistering fast Allegro section.
The return to the initial theme is lighter than before and is quite
effective. The second movement starts slowly and quietly and doesnt
really break out until the end; Backhaus almost treats the movement
as one long crescendo. The Adagio is slow and somber and if its not
especially moving, it still sounds fine to me. The final part of
the work is taken as a hard, fast gallop, and though it eases up a
bit before the end, the coda is also quite fast. Backhaus plays
this work in mercurial fashion to say the least, and if it doesnt
quite scale the heights, its quite good.

14. The same cant be written about the Mondschein sonata. No, this is
one of the greatest recordings this work has ever received! The
opening movement sounds exactly like it should, exactly like I have
always hoped it would. It is dark, somber, with a sense of
melancholy, and Backhaus uses the sustain pedal just so, creating
the perfect degree of haze and blur. It sets the mood perfectly.
Perfectly! The second movement sounds brighter, and more upbeat at
least compared to the opening movement and Backhaus refrains from
too much of anything: speed, volume, expressiveness. Its all
perfectly realized. The third movement is almost perfect. Only some
slightly unclear passages and wobbly, insecure playing (as at 139
and a few other spots) mar an otherwise ideal realization of the
movement. Backhaus desynchronized left hand offers a rocking, solid
underpinning to the right, and if he never completely lets loose,
he plays with enough of all the right elements to make this one to
hear again and again.

15. The Pastorale is not quite as successful. The opening has odd,
stilted left hand playing that seems out of place, though Backhaus
quickly gains a more solid footing, as it were. Even so, the
opening movement never really flows. Between the 2 and 3 or so
mark, the piece takes on an unusually tense sound, though it
reverts back to a more standard conception. The Andante sounds
relatively standard in conception, and is delivered extremely well,
though even here there are tense, terse moments that seem a bit out
of place. The Scherzo, though, is quick and bubbly and eminently
enjoyable. The final movement is quick and charming, with Backhaus
happily dashing off the notes. To an extent it reminds me of
Giesekings approach to Beethoven, though the tone and style is
still uniquely Backhaus. Overall, this is a good reading, but its
not one of the highlights of the cycle.

16. So now its time for the critical Op 31 sonatas. Ive had his stereo
take of the Tempest for a while, and I love that one, so I had very
high hopes for that one going in, but what about the others? Well,
the first sonata satisfies, thats for sure. The quick, alert, and
generally light playing of the opening more than offsets the
occasional opacity and stiffness of the playing. The mood is right,
and thats what matters most. The second movement is playful, with
Backhaus injecting unique little touches everywhere. He opens most
of the trills at a moderate pace only to speed up to just the right
tempo in a smooth, effortless way. Backhaus agility and clarity
here are really superb, as is amply demonstrated in the remarkably
fast middle section. Perhaps some may find it a bit rushed, but
damn, its fun! The concluding Rondo offers more of the same, and
even if its not technically the most secure recording Ive heard,
the unyielding forward momentum makes it one of the most enjoyable.
So, one winner out of one.

17. The Tempest makes it two. The work opens in slow, dark, and
mysterious fashion, and maintains these qualities pretty much
throughout. As a result, this becomes an almost grim reading, with
Backhaus opting to not play the dynamic contrasts in a flashy way,
but rather in a downtrodden, moody way, making the piece alter
between despair and agony. Uplifting it may not be, but it is quite
effective. The Adagio is a bit mannered and overly controlled, but
in the context of this recording it sounds right. The final
movement is sharp, pointed, urgent, and a bit unyielding. Yes, this
is a dark conception of the work, and if I still prefer his stereo
remake a bit more, this is unquestionably a fine reading.

18. The final sonata of the trio makes it three! Fast, vital, and a bit
rough at times, Backhaus just burns right through the opener. Gruff
humor abounds, and it sounds just peachy. The Scherzo keeps up this
feeling. Maybe the Menuetto is a bit stiff, but Backhaus uses
perfect tempi, a perfect tone, and creates the perfect feeling. The
same holds true for the conclusion. Overall, the forward momentum
interrupted by basically cheery and rough outbursts evokes just the
feeling I like.

So, Backhaus nails the critical three, and otherwise does an
admirable or (far) better job on every other sonata in the eight
sonatas in this batch. As with the opening group of ten sonatas,
everything sounds so right, so natural that I cant resist. This is
indeed Beethoven playing of the highest order.

19-20. Moving along to the Op 49 sonatas finds Backhaus in fine form, and
shows that he can do extremely well in small, less grand fare. The
first of the sonatas is just fine: its not too heavy, and though
Backhaus definitely favors quick tempi, he still displays a nicely
variable touch and never ticks over into overbearing intensity.
Better is the second sonata. The opening movement is superb, and
continues along the same lines as the first sonata. But the reason
to hear this recording is unquestionably the second movement. Light
n tight n fun, Backhaus revels in the music and plays with a tender
touch. He does better than most in evoking the wonderful Septet.
Superb.

21. Now its time for some weightier fare. Counter to my expectations,
Backhaus doesnt open the Waldstein especially fast. Hes not slow,
mind you, he just doesnt rip through it. He does manage to
establish a unique and uniquely appealing brusque yet touching feel
to the opener. The second movement comes across as somber,
searching, and brooding with only some sharp, biting playing to add
variability. Its not a feel-good sound (and thats good for me).
Given the somewhat hard and dark preceding movements, Backhaus does
something nearly magical with the third: he opens in gentle, tender
fashion, then builds up the movement with physically strong and
emotionally moving playing. Indeed, the whole work seems to build
up to the end; any minor reservations I may have had here and there
in the first part of the work are washed away by the cumulative
power of the recording. I dont know, the cutting sound may even
have helped things out.

22. For the Op 54 sonata, Backhaus opts for a fast and intense
approach, or at least notably more so than many interpreters. The
opening movement is largely fast and punchy, though Backhaus does
back off in a few spots for some softer playing. The second
movement, though, is almost all fast and furious. Sometimes
Backhaus threatens to tip over into outright reckless playing, with
no regard for accuracy, but he never quite does. It creates an air
of excitement. Throw in some greater than normal low register heft,
and what one has here is some high intensity middle Beethoven. Tis
pretty good.

23. I admit to liking Backhaus stereo Appassionata and assumed I would
like this one, too. I do. But not as much. Backhaus opens up with a
hard, intense, and metallic sound, though he also sounds a bit
short of completely assured. He just wallops out the piece, though
even he cant maintain the highest level of intensity throughout.
The piano sound is colorless and cold, and that actually works
here. The Andante is well played but a bit cool, and it maintains
the same colorless, cold sound. Backhaus turns up the heat in the
second half, and things improve a bit, though the very end of the
movement ends a bit strangely. It seems more contained than a lead
in to the final movement. The final movement is intense throughout,
though the lack of the repeat detracts from the success of the
work, as is invariably the case. So, while this is an intense
reading, there is quite a bit missing, and while still good, I
still prefer the stereo remake as well as a number of others.

24-25. Now its time for a trio of sonatas where Backhaus is among the very
best interpreters, and perhaps even the best. The Op 78 and 79 and
Les Adieux from his stereo set have ranked among my very favorites
since I first heard them, so I had very high expectations here.
They were more than met. Backhaus has the Op 78 down cold.
Everything about it is perfect: its perfectly weighted (not too
heavy or ponderous) and perfectly paced (fast, but not too fast),
with a perfectly variable touch and discreet rubato and pedaling.
Its simultaneously light and serious. The same can pretty much be
said about the Op 79 sonata. Backhaus opens in ideal fashion fast,
strong, and articulate but never cutting. The forward momentum he
generates means that Backhaus may burn through the humorous off-key
portion near the end, but any complaints are so minor as to be
piffle. The second movement is surprisingly somber and weighty and
attractive, serving to add heft to the piece. Tis sublime. And in
the final movement, Backhaus again pulls off the trick of being
simultaneously serious and light. He is amazing in these works.

[The stereo remake of No. 25 is esp. great.]

26. Ditto the 81a. The work opens in a nicely disconsolate,
contemplative fashion. To heighten this effect, Backhaus chooses to
hold back on the first crescendo he doesnt want to give away
anything too early. The restraint adds a nice bittersweet feel to
the movement. The second movement starts off in a sad, ruminative,
and surprisingly aloof and cold way. The end of the movement builds
up with expectation for the friends return, and when it happens,
the third movement is exultant and thrilling, with more of Backhaus
fast and strong playing and what sounds to be genuine happiness. He
knocks this one out of the park.

Another eight sonatas down, and, if anything, my opinion of Mr
Backhaus has only improved. What will the late sonatas bring?

[Now for the late sonatas, I sharply disagree with the assessments here
and regard Backhaus's performances as among the great glories of the set
and of any set. It is true that they do not grab you immediately, but it
can take repeated playing to get into his specific style. After one grasps
that style, one can see it fully at work in the late sonatas. It's just
that it is not apparent at once. The stereo remake of No. 31 is especially
good, as I noticed with Nos. 4 and 25. Happily, the three comprised, in
its original issue on London, a single disk. Try to find it and then
you'll try to find the entire set!]

28. Time for the late sonatas. Surely, given the quality of the cycle
thus far, Backhaus should be irreproachable in the late works. It
aint so. That doesnt seem evident with the Op 90 sonata, though.
This one shows those Backhaus traits that so often inform the
earlier sonatas: he prefers swift tempi overall; he plays in a less
than ideally lyrical way; he plays with fine articulation and
strength; he makes the music exciting. Yep, thats some good stuff.
The second movement does sound more lyrical and offers a more
variegated color palette, though even here Backhaus brings some
incisive playing in a few places where many dont. While not one of
my top choices, this is excellent.

29. The same holds true for the Op 101 sonata. The opening is again
fast and a bit ungraceful. It doesnt really stir ones soul or
imagination, though; its not especially deep. The second movement
continues in the very good but not ideal vein with a nice if clunky
march. The third movement, though, shows the first hints of what
plagues some of the later sonatas there is an ascetic, stripped
down, rather cold feeling to the music making. Its neither
intellectually or emotionally enriching enough; Backhaus gives the
impression of merely spinning notes at times. The work improves
with a quick, peculiarly upbeat final movement possessing the
energy of some earlier sonatas, the slow coda notwithstanding. This
is a good rendition of the work, but theres something missing.
That isnt as much a problem with the Hammerklavier. I came to this
recording with extremely high expectations. Ive read and heard
praise for this, with claims that it is among the best recordings
of this work perhaps even the best. I cant say that Im that
enthusiastic about it. The problem comes in the first two
movements. Backhaus takes tempi slower than I tend to favor. (He
dont use no whipcrack, Gulda-like approach.) And while hes not a
slouch technically, he lacks the ideal degree of mastery of the
piece. Hes certainly no Pollini. But even ignoring other pianists
something essentially impossible to do it seems too stiff and
contrived at times. Yes, he does imbue the movements with some
genuine excitement at times, and he speeds up appreciably in some
sections, but its not quite what Id hoped for. The Adagio, on the
other hand, is quite simply one of the greatest Ive heard. I admit
that this movement can sound a bit too long in some recordings, but
Backhaus nearly suspends time and plays with a desolate and
searching feeling and creates a sense of inevitability, if you
will; everything that he plays can sound that way and only that
way. It is amazing. Scarcely less impressive is the finale. The
Largo is nice if perhaps a bit impatient Backhaus evidently wants
at that fugue. When he gets there he delivers. It is relentlessly
driven and possessed of a, well, possessed intensity and
seriousness that not even patches of less than perfect clarity can
mar. Yessir, this heres a good final movement. But, as with all of
Ludwig vans sonatas, one must consider the whole, and there
Backhaus does fall short of the very best.

[The comments on the last three are disappointingly brief.]

30. The real problems with the late sonatas are to be found in the last
three. The Op 109 encompasses most of what is wrong with them. He
plays too quickly and the work sounds downright disjointed at
times. His phrasing can be odd. At times he plays with seeming
disdain for whats written. Very little if anything can be called
beautiful. (In this work, only the first variation in the final
movement falls into that category.) There is not much if anything
that can be called transcendent or spiritual or philosophical here.

31-32. In the Op 110 a feeling that Backhaus just doesnt connect with the
piece enters into the picture. In the last sonata he adds a glossed
over feeling. Everything is basically too fast and not strongly
characterized; the opening never sounds ominous or especially dark,
the Arietta is ascetic and almost unpleasant. Yet. Yet these
sonatas arent disasters. Theres no doubt that they arent top
contenders, but they do work as dismissive, almost disdainful
alternative approaches. I just cant see myself spinning them too
often.


Even with the relatively disappointing late sonatas especially the
last three Backhaus mono cycle must be considered one of the
greats. So much of what he does sounds so right that its hard to
find serious fault with his playing. Gripes are mostly minor;
praise is largely unnecessary. This is a monumental cycle and one
that wish I would have heard earlier. Better late than never, I
guess.
tomdeacon
2006-05-23 13:31:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Premise Checker
Todd reviews Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)
(snipped)
This is a monumental cycle and one
Post by Premise Checker
that wish I would have heard earlier. Better late than never, I
guess.
The question, of course, is whether this is the cycle which Decca has
released in Original Masters, or, whether they have yet again opted for
the stereo cycle, coupled with the mono Hammerklavier.

Info on the box and from the Decca website is too vague to know for
sure.

As far as I know the mono set has only been available so far from
Japan. Or am I wrong about that?

TD
Toddy
2006-05-23 13:39:01 UTC
Permalink
Oh, and the mono set is available in Japan and Italy.
Toddy
2006-05-23 13:35:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Premise Checker
This is the second complete cycle to have recorded. Schnabel's was the
first and Kempff's was the third. Kempff did record most of them on
acoustic and electrical 78s. My Kempff discography can be found at
http://www.panix.com/~checker/kempff.htm. al-Brendel's for Vox was the
fourth and Kempff's stereo remake the fifth. The first three are my own
favorites by far, though I have not heard that many others.
First of all Premise Checker, where's Yves Nat's cycle? Last time I
checked, it predated Brendel's first traversal. Second, would you mind
terribly not copying and pasting my posts from others forums to this
one?

Third, for Mr Deacon, the new Original Master set is a reissue of the
stereo set.
Matthew B. Tepper
2006-05-23 14:35:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Toddy
First of all Premise Checker, where's Yves Nat's cycle?
How are the transfers on the EMI box? I realize that (unlike Schnabel) this
is likely the only game in town.
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
w***@comcast.net
2006-05-23 15:04:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
How are the transfers on the EMI box? I realize that (unlike Schnabel) this
is likely the only game in town.
I haven't listened to this in a while, but my recollection is that the
sound is not very good for recordings made between 1953 and 1955. It
sounds like the original material might have been in rough shape.

Bill
David Fox
2006-05-23 19:00:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
Post by Toddy
First of all Premise Checker, where's Yves Nat's cycle?
How are the transfers on the EMI box? I realize that (unlike Schnabel) this
is likely the only game in town.
--
The recording quality is not great but it is eminently listenable. I
am more bothered by the typical EMI overfiltering and the bandbox
nature of the piano sound at times than I am by the vintage of the
recording, but the recording quality is acceptable overall. These
recordings were made in the age of magnetic tape. If you can wade
tolerate the Schnabel recordings for the underlying musicianship, you
will have absolutely no problem here. I highly recommend the box.

If you're still on the fence, there is a single CD sampler of the
"usual suspect" sonatas that has been in and out of print on EMI over
the years. I used to own it but I gave it away once I bought the box.
I still see this disc on the shelves of Amoeba from time to time.

DF
Matthew B. Tepper
2006-05-23 19:10:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
Post by Toddy
First of all Premise Checker, where's Yves Nat's cycle?
How are the transfers on the EMI box? I realize that (unlike Schnabel)
this is likely the only game in town.
The recording quality is not great but it is eminently listenable. I am
more bothered by the typical EMI overfiltering and the bandbox nature of
the piano sound at times than I am by the vintage of the recording, but
the recording quality is acceptable overall. These recordings were made
in the age of magnetic tape. If you can wade tolerate the Schnabel
recordings for the underlying musicianship, you will have absolutely no
problem here. I highly recommend the box.
If you're still on the fence, there is a single CD sampler of the "usual
suspect" sonatas that has been in and out of print on EMI over the years.
I used to own it but I gave it away once I bought the box. I still see
this disc on the shelves of Amoeba from time to time.
Thanks, I may try that sampler out.
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
tomdeacon
2006-05-23 22:53:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Fox
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
Post by Toddy
First of all Premise Checker, where's Yves Nat's cycle?
How are the transfers on the EMI box? I realize that (unlike Schnabel) this
is likely the only game in town.
--
The recording quality is not great but it is eminently listenable.
I agree.

I own both the French EMI LP incarnation from the 1970s, I think, as
well as the CD box. Not wonderful, but in the end serviceable.

In fact I might be tempted to make the same comment about the playing.

TD
f***@hotmail.com
2006-05-23 15:01:18 UTC
Permalink
Second, would you mind
Post by Toddy
terribly not copying and pasting my posts from others forums to this
one?
I surely understand your problem, but I at least was very happy to see
this your pasted post here - I even printed it out. So far, I only have
the stereo cycle and like it very much, too. Somehow he managed always
to give a whole. And I like his touch which I find very gentle and
"soft".
Post by Toddy
Third, for Mr Deacon, the new Original Master set is a reissue of the
stereo set.
Does it sound significantly better than the previous CD incarnation?
Oddly, on this earlier release, the sound deteriorates with advancing
recording dates (of course, the Hammerklavier is the exception). The
1958 recordings are a bit hissy, but rich and warm. And later on they
got colder and blander every time he entered the studio. Is this a
result of a change in the ideal of recorded sound or does it reflect a
change in Backhaus' playing I wonder.

Cheers,
Floor
tomdeacon
2006-05-23 17:43:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Toddy
Third, for Mr Deacon, the new Original Master set is a reissue of the
stereo set.
Hmmmmmmm.

They did, then, take the easy way out.

Although since Universal in Italy (as well as Japan) had already
released the early mono set, it wouldn't have cost them anything to
release that. Perhaps someone didn't know, and thought it would have to
be transferred anew?

Those interested in the best Backhaus should try to obtain the mono set
from Italy.

433882-2 (8 CDs, special price, Limited Edition)

TD
Gabriel Parra
2006-05-23 18:42:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Those interested in the best Backhaus should try to obtain the mono set
from Italy.
Agreed. I obtained mine in Venice and it is in every way superior to
the Stereo set. Same goes for Kempff, by the way, if anything even more
so. Seems like there was a cut-off date in 1960, after which the level
of musicianship in recordings declined appreciably. Perhaps it has
something to do with the fact that as the technology increased, control
of the finished product shifted from the artist to the producer.
Reminds me of when Schnabel was asked to perform a Beethoven sonata
movement again. "It may be more accurate," he said, "but it won't be as
good." (paraphrasing)

Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Toddy
Third, for Mr Deacon, the new Original Master set is a reissue of the
stereo set.
Hmmmmmmm.
They did, then, take the easy way out.
Although since Universal in Italy (as well as Japan) had already
released the early mono set, it wouldn't have cost them anything to
release that. Perhaps someone didn't know, and thought it would have to
be transferred anew?
Those interested in the best Backhaus should try to obtain the mono set
from Italy.
433882-2 (8 CDs, special price, Limited Edition)
TD
f***@hotmail.com
2006-05-23 19:22:24 UTC
Permalink
Gabriel Parra wrote:
[snip)
Post by Gabriel Parra
Reminds me of when Schnabel was asked to perform a Beethoven sonata
movement again. "It may be more accurate," he said, "but it won't be as
good." (paraphrasing)
Couldn't agree more.
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Interesting theory. Did you listen to any HIP recordings that have been
made in the last few years? Ever bothered to try Schornsheim's Haydn,
Kristin von der Goltz's Jacob Klein, Brautigam's Beethoven,
Alessandrini's Brandenburg Concertos, Rene Jacob's Haydn Seasons,
symphonies 91 and 92 with FBO, Saul with Concerto Köln?

Or Harnoncourts remake of the Messiah? Egarr's Goldbergs?

Did you listen to Egarr's recordings of Stokowski's transcription of
Dido's lament?

Or Herreweghe's really "romantic", portamento-containing,
rubato-loving, not-at-all-that different Bruckner? Might have given you
food for thought...

I could hardly imagine more undogmatical readings - especially
Harnoncourt has gotten pretty rude reviews for his "incorrect" approach
in his recent Messiah.

Take any of them and explain to me where you see, hear, feel, smell,
suspect or taste anything of a "fundamentalist approach" there...

You know, there's not only MAK and Goebel or Trevor Pinnock, things
have moved on.

A final note to dogmatists: music ought to be about music. No way of
pinning it down otherwise - it has to sound. And every different
approach makes us richer. And if there's one thing that's "a threat to
the survival of great music" it's - routine, as you pointed out
already.

Cheers,
Floor
Gabriel Parra
2006-05-23 20:44:08 UTC
Permalink
Floor -

I admit that after having heard the likes of Goebel, Pinnock, Gardiner,
Norrington, and a whole host of principally British academics
masquerading as musicians I gave up on the historically informed
performance movement, or HIP as it is so appropriately called. To be
frank, it's not just their way with the music that bothers me, but also
their declarations that claim "authenticity," implying that alternative
approaches are somehow "inauthentic." One even went so far as to regard
Furtwangler's performance of a Bach piece as "disgusting." Come on.
Yes, as you say, it is that dogmatic attitude that I find so repellent.
As to whether one ought to tolerate intolerance, in the context of this
debate and the Western world's reaction to Islamic fundamentalism, that
is perhaps a discussion best left for another post.

I will say that I have come to appreciate certain Harnoncourt
performances, ironic since he is one of HIP's founding fathers.
Nevertheless, he has come out against the overly rigid approach of some
adherents of the HIP school. So yes, I have enjoyed some historically
informed approaches, but I think that has less to do with the history
and scholarship behind those performances than with the pure and simple
musicianship of those involved.

Incidentally, Furtwangler, loathe as he was to admit it, was as much a
"scholar" as any of those who agree to be called such. People forget
that although his interpretations varied from performance to
performance, they were all stamped by the same overall approach. That
is, a Furtwangler Beethoven 3rd was unmistakable in its personality and
provenance. Details would vary, but the overall conception always
remained the same. At one very fundamental level, Furtwangler's
approach was far more systematic than "merely" inspirational. His
studies with Schenker "informed" every aspect of his music making. I
would say that while Gardiner and Norrington like to boast they are
"historically informed," Furtwangler one-upped them by being "musically
informed."

But, back to your point, there are vestiges of the HIP movement
everywhere in evidence these days, such as with Abbado, who went from
being a decent if boring conductor to a terrible and boring conductor
as a result. His Beethoven set sounds wheezy and asthmatic to my ears.
Rattle, on the other hand, well, he is a special case. Interesting to
see, not what happened to him, but what is happening to him. Here you
have someone who was brought up on HIP, and latterly began to come
around to the ways of the "old school," the opposite of the previous
generation. End result? A Beethoven 9th that has more in common with
Furtwangler than with Gardiner and others. Rattle admits that he no
longer listens to recordings by anyone who is still alive. The extent
to which he consults history, as it were, is through the historical
recordings of greats such as Furtwangler, Walter, Klemperer and others.
Fascinating. And it is fascinating not just because I share in that
same trajectory--I was brought up on Norrington and then one day I
listened to Furtwangler in a used classical record shop and became an
instant convert--but because his increasingly personal interpretations,
such that he is today often accused of being idiosyncratic and even
mannered, I believe are part of a wholesale movement away from the
fundamentalist approach of the last thirty or so years to a renewed
embrace of personality, individuality and yes, personal, subjective
interpretations. Rattle, Piotr Anderszewski and others like them give
me hope that the Abbados and Pollinis of this world are fading away
into silence and obscurity.

Best,

Gabriel
Post by f***@hotmail.com
[snip)
Post by Gabriel Parra
Reminds me of when Schnabel was asked to perform a Beethoven sonata
movement again. "It may be more accurate," he said, "but it won't be as
good." (paraphrasing)
Couldn't agree more.
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Interesting theory. Did you listen to any HIP recordings that have been
made in the last few years? Ever bothered to try Schornsheim's Haydn,
Kristin von der Goltz's Jacob Klein, Brautigam's Beethoven,
Alessandrini's Brandenburg Concertos, Rene Jacob's Haydn Seasons,
symphonies 91 and 92 with FBO, Saul with Concerto Köln?
Or Harnoncourts remake of the Messiah? Egarr's Goldbergs?
Did you listen to Egarr's recordings of Stokowski's transcription of
Dido's lament?
Or Herreweghe's really "romantic", portamento-containing,
rubato-loving, not-at-all-that different Bruckner? Might have given you
food for thought...
I could hardly imagine more undogmatical readings - especially
Harnoncourt has gotten pretty rude reviews for his "incorrect" approach
in his recent Messiah.
Take any of them and explain to me where you see, hear, feel, smell,
suspect or taste anything of a "fundamentalist approach" there...
You know, there's not only MAK and Goebel or Trevor Pinnock, things
have moved on.
A final note to dogmatists: music ought to be about music. No way of
pinning it down otherwise - it has to sound. And every different
approach makes us richer. And if there's one thing that's "a threat to
the survival of great music" it's - routine, as you pointed out
already.
Cheers,
Floor
Ian Pace
2006-05-23 23:31:26 UTC
Permalink
"Gabriel Parra" <***@gmail.com> wrote in message news:***@y43g2000cwc.googlegroups.com...
Floor -

GP: I admit that after having heard the likes of Goebel, Pinnock, Gardiner,
Norrington, and a whole host of principally British academics
masquerading as musicians I gave up on the historically informed
performance movement, or HIP as it is so appropriately called.

Fair enough

GP: To be
frank, it's not just their way with the music that bothers me, but also
their declarations that claim "authenticity," implying that alternative
approaches are somehow "inauthentic."

Very few claim that nowadays. But you can find similar types of claims from
earlier musicians such as Bruno Walter, Toscanini or Gieseking.

GP: One even went so far as to regard
Furtwangler's performance of a Bach piece as "disgusting."

Well, they are entitled to their view - some people really dislike
Furtwangler's Bach (it's not to my tastes).
Post by Gabriel Parra
Come on.
Yes, as you say, it is that dogmatic attitude that I find so repellent.
As to whether one ought to tolerate intolerance, in the context of this
debate and the Western world's reaction to Islamic fundamentalism, that
is perhaps a discussion best left for another post.

All they are doing is presenting their view together with their performances
and recordings. There are plenty of other alternatives on offer if one
doesn't like them.

GP: I will say that I have come to appreciate certain Harnoncourt
performances, ironic since he is one of HIP's founding fathers.
Nevertheless, he has come out against the overly rigid approach of some
adherents of the HIP school. So yes, I have enjoyed some historically
informed approaches, but I think that has less to do with the history
and scholarship behind those performances than with the pure and simple
musicianship of those involved.

Well, I don't think that Harnoncourt's performances/recordings would have
been the same had he not engaged in extensive historical scholarship

GP: Incidentally, Furtwangler, loathe as he was to admit it, was as much a
"scholar" as any of those who agree to be called such. People forget
that although his interpretations varied from performance to
performance, they were all stamped by the same overall approach. That
is, a Furtwangler Beethoven 3rd was unmistakable in its personality and
provenance. Details would vary, but the overall conception always
remained the same.

The similarities between his Beethoven 9ths have been examined in great
detail by Nicholas Cook in his Cambridge Handbook on the work.

GP: At one very fundamental level, Furtwangler's
approach was far more systematic than "merely" inspirational. His
studies with Schenker "informed" every aspect of his music making. I
would say that while Gardiner and Norrington like to boast they are
"historically informed," Furtwangler one-upped them by being "musically
informed."

There are plenty of arguments to say that claims made for the intrinsic
'musicality' of Schenker's methodologies and their application might be
equally tenuous.
Post by Gabriel Parra
But, back to your point, there are vestiges of the HIP movement
everywhere in evidence these days, such as with Abbado, who went from
being a decent if boring conductor to a terrible and boring conductor
as a result. His Beethoven set sounds wheezy and asthmatic to my ears.
Rattle, on the other hand, well, he is a special case. Interesting to
see, not what happened to him, but what is happening to him. Here you
have someone who was brought up on HIP, and latterly began to come
around to the ways of the "old school," the opposite of the previous
generation.

The two things are not incompatible. But while he has engaged with HIP, I
don't necessarily see Rattle as coming from that background - more simply
from the cultural traditions bequeathed by British orchestras.

GP: End result? A Beethoven 9th that has more in common with
Furtwangler than with Gardiner and others. Rattle admits that he no
longer listens to recordings by anyone who is still alive.

So should other conductors listen to his, then? He's still alive, after all.

GP: The extent
to which he consults history, as it were, is through the historical
recordings of greats such as Furtwangler, Walter, Klemperer and others.
Fascinating.

Indeed

GP: And it is fascinating not just because I share in that
same trajectory--I was brought up on Norrington and then one day I
listened to Furtwangler in a used classical record shop and became an
instant convert--but because his increasingly personal interpretations,
such that he is today often accused of being idiosyncratic and even
mannered, I believe are part of a wholesale movement away from the
fundamentalist approach of the last thirty or so years to a renewed
embrace of personality, individuality and yes, personal, subjective
interpretations.

Many would have called Norrington's highly idiosyncratic as well, at least
in the context of the time they appeared. They certainly were not simply
orthodox. And I find a lot of his personality comes through in them -
whether or not one likes that personality is another matter.

GP: Rattle, Piotr Anderszewski and others like them give
me hope that the Abbados and Pollinis of this world are fading away
into silence and obscurity.

If you like. Personally I'm more fond of the Abbados and Pollinis.

Ian
Matthew Silverstein
2006-05-24 02:08:15 UTC
Permalink
To be frank, it's not just their way with the music that bothers me, but
also their declarations that claim "authenticity," implying that
alternative approaches are somehow "inauthentic."
Except that few if any of the HIPsters on the scene today put any stock in
the notion of authenticity. And some of them--including longstanding
HIPsters like Harnoncourt--explicitly reject this idea.
One even went so far as to regard Furtwangler's performance of a Bach
piece as "disgusting."
I know plenty of non-HIPsters who think that Furtängler's Bach is
disgusting.

Matty
f***@hotmail.com
2006-05-24 13:30:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gabriel Parra
Floor -
Gabriel,
first of all thanks for replying in such a kind tone and giving the
reasons for your conclusions - most of previous HIP discussions here
which I have been following since I began reading this newgroup early
in 2004 tend to degenerate into parades of ad hominem insults rather
quickly - and I wasn't in my most polite mode yesterday, too...
Post by Gabriel Parra
I admit that after having heard the likes of Goebel, Pinnock, Gardiner,
Norrington, and a whole host of principally British academics
masquerading as musicians I gave up on the historically informed
performance movement, or HIP as it is so appropriately called.
Which those listening experiences as your basis, I completely
understand your point of view. But they are only a small part of the
picture, and currently the mainstream HIP movement is doing things very
very different. It's like commenting on baroque painting when you have
only seen El Greco and no one else (just to illustrate my point, I have
nothing against El Greco, really).
Post by Gabriel Parra
frank, it's not just their way with the music that bothers me, but also
their declarations that claim "authenticity," implying that alternative
approaches are somehow "inauthentic."
For this I refer to Mr. Pace, with whom I agree completely.

One even went so far as to regard
Post by Gabriel Parra
Furtwangler's performance of a Bach piece as "disgusting."
I like his Brandenburg 3 and 5 while I find his St. Matthew (the one on
EMI) disgusting as far as orchestra and the choir are concerned.
Horrible.


Come on.
Post by Gabriel Parra
Yes, as you say, it is that dogmatic attitude that I find so repellent.
So do I. Dogmatism kills music, that's what I say.
Post by Gabriel Parra
As to whether one ought to tolerate intolerance, in the context of this
debate and the Western world's reaction to Islamic fundamentalism, that
is perhaps a discussion best left for another post.
I can see no linkage here.
Post by Gabriel Parra
I will say that I have come to appreciate certain Harnoncourt
performances, ironic since he is one of HIP's founding fathers.
Nevertheless, he has come out against the overly rigid approach of some
adherents of the HIP school. So yes, I have enjoyed some historically
informed approaches, but I think that has less to do with the history
and scholarship behind those performances than with the pure and simple
musicianship of those involved.
I think that good musicianship is not quite as "pure and simple", it
requires great skill and knowledge. Some of my favourite HIP devices to
illustrate this point:

1) Slurs

Today's muscians see slurs simply as an indication to bind all the
notes under it - in former times, a slur over two notes meant that you
had not only to bind them, but also that the second one is less
important - if this is observed in the right way, it can give the music
an amazing extra portion of life - if applied dogmatically, it leads to
"clipped phrasing" associated with HIP.

2) Bowing

Gut strings are really different from steel strings. They demand a
different bowing technique, usually less pressure and slower speed of
the bow. By modifying the speed of the bow you also can greatly
influence the "consistence", the "voluminosity" of the tone, much more
than with steel strings. This makes possible some highly differentiated
phrasing, which can be used to make melodies "speak" much more detailed
than is possible on modern instruments.

3) Balances

If you would give Herreweghe's Bruckner 4 a try, you would hear an
interpretation which in its outlines is nothing "different" at all.
But, bowing issues and timbres aside, you would hear a much more
transparent texture without sounding thin or lean at all - in fact, I
hear a really full, blooming and warm sound - but this sound has also a
much broader diversity than with modern instruments, and the musicians
have much more possibilities to modulate this tone. As I already said,
this gives them just more possiblities for musical expression.

That they have to have the soul for feeling the music is another
matter. But if you don't have the technique and the means for
expressing your feelings, you come nowhere (at least that's a lesson I
learned from my futile attempts at the piano ;-))).
Post by Gabriel Parra
Incidentally, Furtwangler, loathe as he was to admit it, was as much a
"scholar" as any of those who agree to be called such. People forget
that although his interpretations varied from performance to
performance, they were all stamped by the same overall approach. That
is, a Furtwangler Beethoven 3rd was unmistakable in its personality and
provenance. Details would vary, but the overall conception always
remained the same. At one very fundamental level, Furtwangler's
approach was far more systematic than "merely" inspirational. His
studies with Schenker "informed" every aspect of his music making. I
would say that while Gardiner and Norrington like to boast they are
"historically informed," Furtwangler one-upped them by being "musically
informed."
If you read some of his utterings in letters (as quoted in Haffner's
recent anti-hagriographic biography), you might be put off by the
almost chauvinistic arrogance with this man, whom I also admire as one
of the greatest musicians of all time, judged the music of other
musicians.
Post by Gabriel Parra
But, back to your point, there are vestiges of the HIP movement
everywhere in evidence these days, such as with Abbado, who went from
being a decent if boring conductor to a terrible and boring conductor
as a result. His Beethoven set sounds wheezy and asthmatic to my ears.
Maybe, I didn't hear it - but what I never heard anybody using his
ill-judged imitators as an argument against Caruso (OK, Stefan Zucker,
but...).

Have you given Nikisch's Beethoven 5 a close listen already? While
being VERY free with tempo, it is amazing how much of my most beloved
HIP devices were still in use in 1913! No continous vibrato, sometimes
a slight inequality to accentuate a point, gut strings...
Post by Gabriel Parra
Rattle, on the other hand, well, he is a special case. Interesting to
see, not what happened to him, but what is happening to him. Here you
have someone who was brought up on HIP, and latterly began to come
around to the ways of the "old school," the opposite of the previous
generation. End result? A Beethoven 9th that has more in common with
Furtwangler than with Gardiner and others.
Which says nothing about HIP at all - HIP is about finding the
stylistic outer limits to give the musician free reign within these
limits.

Rattle admits that he no
Post by Gabriel Parra
longer listens to recordings by anyone who is still alive.
His loss, I would say.

The extent
Post by Gabriel Parra
to which he consults history, as it were, is through the historical
recordings of greats such as Furtwangler, Walter, Klemperer and others.
Fascinating. And it is fascinating not just because I share in that
same trajectory--I was brought up on Norrington and then one day I
listened to Furtwangler in a used classical record shop and became an
instant convert--but because his increasingly personal interpretations,
such that he is today often accused of being idiosyncratic and even
mannered, I believe are part of a wholesale movement away from the
fundamentalist approach of the last thirty or so years to a renewed
embrace of personality, individuality and yes, personal, subjective
interpretations.
That's precisely what is happening in HIP today, too.

Rattle, Piotr Anderszewski and others like them give
Post by Gabriel Parra
me hope that the Abbados and Pollinis of this world are fading away
into silence and obscurity.
Why should they?

Speaking about fundamentalism and tolerance, why has there to be only
one understanding of music? Why should we feel and play music only as
something highly emotional and develop "personal interpretations"? Why
shouldn't there be room for people who think that music is just about
moving forms in sound, or that it is mathematics translated into sound,
or whatever they want?

I think that we might share the same approach to music - I prefer
passionate, individual, radical interpretations to approaches more
"objective" or "neutral" - but there are many different ways to make
musik alive, and that's what it should be (at least for me). And I
really understand your somewhat lopsided view on HIP as well - I
thought precisely the same before I got into contact with the current
undogmatical HIP movement. And I can tell you that many of these people
are great admirers of artists like Furtwängler - Richard Egarr in his
full-lenght essay on the Goldbergs on the harmonia mundi website
underscores his arguments with quotations from Stokowski!

Nobody is forced to listen to just one approach, and the bland
uniformity of much recent music making on modern instruments has
nothing to do with HIP, really. It got sick just on its own.

You know, the difference between the real fundamentalists and the
slowly becoming extinct HIP dogmatists is that the don't force anything
on anybody. They just go for their convictions, letting everyone be as
he wishes. And they have something to give - there would be no Richard
Egarr without Trevor Pinnock!

In sum, I think that we might not be too different in what we listen
for in music, and it could be that you would find great riches in some
new HIP - as did I, coming from Furtwängler, Klemperer, Toscanini,
Backhaus, Kempff, Kreisler and all the other heroes. And enjoying
Herreweghe or Brautigam has done no harm whatsoever to my enjoyment and
admiration of Klemperer or Backhaus (I would love to buy the digital
Arrau Beethoven 32, but I'll have to be afloat again before).

Does this serve as some sort of "practical apology" for my somewhat
ill-tempered post from yesterday?

Looking forward to further discussion,
Floor
Nightingale
2006-05-24 14:05:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by f***@hotmail.com
2) Bowing
Gut strings are really different from steel strings. They demand a
different bowing technique, usually less pressure and slower speed of
the bow.
Don't forget the difference caused by the bow itself, which is at least as much
as that caused by the strings. I was at a concert once where the violinist
brought two different bows, and people who had not been close enough to see that
he picked up the same violin again thought he had switched instruments as well.
Ian Pace
2006-05-23 22:30:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gabriel Parra
Post by tomdeacon
Those interested in the best Backhaus should try to obtain the mono set
from Italy.
Agreed. I obtained mine in Venice and it is in every way superior to
the Stereo set. Same goes for Kempff, by the way, if anything even more
so. Seems like there was a cut-off date in 1960, after which the level
of musicianship in recordings declined appreciably. Perhaps it has
something to do with the fact that as the technology increased, control
of the finished product shifted from the artist to the producer.
Reminds me of when Schnabel was asked to perform a Beethoven sonata
movement again. "It may be more accurate," he said, "but it won't be as
good." (paraphrasing)
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Wow - I've never seen HIP linked to the war on terror before. In what way is
HIP 'politically correct' and how do the extremely diverse approaches
contained therein constitute 'fundamentalism'?

Ian
tomdeacon
2006-05-23 22:58:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Wow - I've never seen HIP linked to the war on terror before. In what way is
HIP 'politically correct' and how do the extremely diverse approaches
contained therein constitute 'fundamentalism'?
Neither have I. But it fits.

Fundamentalists go back to the sources. First sources.

So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic", that their ornaments are "correct", and
that their tempi are quick, that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......

Nonsense, of course.

Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.

TD
Ian Pace
2006-05-23 23:34:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Wow - I've never seen HIP linked to the war on terror before. In what way is
HIP 'politically correct' and how do the extremely diverse approaches
contained therein constitute 'fundamentalism'?
Neither have I. But it fits.
Fundamentalists go back to the sources. First sources.
So do historians.
Post by tomdeacon
So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic",
It's not so impossible to establish which types of instruments were
generally used at the time of a work's composition and first performances.
Post by tomdeacon
that their ornaments are "correct",
Likewise, some valuable information can be gleamed from studying the
sources. Is that such a fruitless activity?
Post by tomdeacon
and
that their tempi are quick,
Some of them are - so are some of Furtwangler's and Toscanini's. And some of
their tempi are slow, some medium, as well.
Post by tomdeacon
that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......
Nonsense, of course.
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
I haven't yet heard of HIPsters flying planes into concert halls hosting
non-HIP performances. Maybe it will come in time.

Ian
tomdeacon
2006-05-24 13:08:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by tomdeacon
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
I haven't yet heard of HIPsters flying planes into concert halls hosting
non-HIP performances. Maybe it will come in time.
Doubtful.

The HIPsters are generally a seedy bunch. Earth shoes. Crunchy granola.
Vegans, too. No real guts. Just a lot of words and scrawny
mucus-making.

A recent programme on CBC radio compared seven recent versions of
Mozart's Vico No. 3 slow movement. Most were hipsters. Really appalling
stuff. Beginning with Manze, of course. ARGH!!! What can possibly be
the reason anyone would listen to that turkey, except that he was
British. Boost Buffalo, it's good for YOU!!!

TD
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 12:52:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Wow - I've never seen HIP linked to the war on terror before. In what way is
HIP 'politically correct' and how do the extremely diverse approaches
contained therein constitute 'fundamentalism'?
Neither have I. But it fits.
Fundamentalists go back to the sources. First sources.
They most certainly do not!

Presumably you are referring to the biblical fundamentalists who emerged
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
Post by tomdeacon
So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic", that their ornaments are "correct", and
that their tempi are quick, that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......
Of course they're more "authentic." That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for. (And that includes not trying to play
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
Post by tomdeacon
Nonsense, of course.
Maybe you don't understand English too well.
Post by tomdeacon
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
Tureck is Buckley's favorite musician. That's quite a few strikes
against her right there.

When has Rosen plumbed music from earlier than the Classical era?
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
Michael Haslam
2006-05-24 13:10:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Fundamentalists go back to the sources. First sources.
They most certainly do not!
Presumably you are referring to the biblical fundamentalists who emerged
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
AFAIK the Koran is always read, by its adherents, "in the original" and
there is little doubt or argument as to what that consists of, although,
of course, different sects have differing interpretations. Some of the
Jewish texts have been restored with the help of early Christian copies,
I think. Which is nice.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic", that their ornaments are "correct", and
that their tempi are quick, that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......
Of course they're more "authentic." That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for. (And that includes not trying to play
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
--
MJHaslam
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
"Can't you show a little restraint?" - Dr. David Tholen
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 13:25:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
The swell box hadn't been invented yet in JSB's time, and it's
indispensible for the Romantic literature. (And I doubt you can do
justice to Messiaen without lots of combination-pistons, not a
possibility on a tracker action.) (I won't, however, defend the
crescendo pedal.)

Donald R. M. Paterson had a tiny enclosed division included in the
Helmut Wolff Opus 7 that was installed in Anabel Taylor Chapel at
Cornell University in 1972, because his two passions were the French
Baroque (he was one of the organists who inaugurated the G. F. Adam in
the balcony of St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, which was so French-Baroque
that it wasn't good for much of anything else, and I think it was
replaced not long after) and Brahms.
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
Michael Haslam
2006-05-24 13:52:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
The swell box hadn't been invented yet in JSB's time, and it's
indispensible for the Romantic literature. (And I doubt you can do
justice to Messiaen without lots of combination-pistons, not a
possibility on a tracker action.) (I won't, however, defend the
crescendo pedal.)
There is evidence of swell boxes in Spain at the time of Bach. The
presence of a swell-box on an organ does not render it unsuitable for
Bach; you don't have to use the swell pedal. It is not certain that
Mendelssohn intended the use of a swell box when he used crescendo and
diminuendo marks in his organ works. Combination pistons exist on the
majority of modern tracker action organs of more than about 20-25 stops;
don't confuse mechanical KEY action with mechanical STOP action. The
organs of Messiaen's youth frequently only had ventils not settable
pistons.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Donald R. M. Paterson had a tiny enclosed division included in the
Helmut Wolff Opus 7 that was installed in Anabel Taylor Chapel at
Cornell University in 1972, because his two passions were the French
Baroque (he was one of the organists who inaugurated the G. F. Adam in
the balcony of St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, which was so French-Baroque
that it wasn't good for much of anything else, and I think it was
replaced not long after) and Brahms.
It is certainly possible to play most of the late Brahms preludes on
organs without a swell box.
--
MJHaslam
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
"Can't you show a little restraint?" - Dr. David Tholen
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 23:43:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
The swell box hadn't been invented yet in JSB's time, and it's
indispensible for the Romantic literature. (And I doubt you can do
justice to Messiaen without lots of combination-pistons, not a
possibility on a tracker action.) (I won't, however, defend the
crescendo pedal.)
There is evidence of swell boxes in Spain at the time of Bach. The
presence of a swell-box on an organ does not render it unsuitable for
Bach;
Oh, Michael! The oldest logical fallacy in the book! The _absence_ of
enclosed divisions renders an organ unsuitable for Romantic organ music;
the only logical deduction from that statement is, "If an organ is
suitable for Romantic organ music, then it has enclosed divisions."

If there were swell boxes in Spain in the early 18th century, then Mr.
Audsley didn't know about them. Or Mr. Barnes, whose many-editioned work
on the history of the American organ was my favorite book among my
organist roommate's library.
Post by Michael Haslam
you don't have to use the swell pedal. It is not certain that
Mendelssohn intended the use of a swell box when he used crescendo and
diminuendo marks in his organ works. Combination pistons exist on the
majority of modern tracker action organs of more than about 20-25 stops;
don't confuse mechanical KEY action with mechanical STOP action. The
organs of Messiaen's youth frequently only had ventils not settable
pistons.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Donald R. M. Paterson had a tiny enclosed division included in the
Helmut Wolff Opus 7 that was installed in Anabel Taylor Chapel at
Cornell University in 1972, because his two passions were the French
Baroque (he was one of the organists who inaugurated the G. F. Adam in
the balcony of St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, which was so French-Baroque
that it wasn't good for much of anything else, and I think it was
replaced not long after) and Brahms.
It is certainly possible to play most of the late Brahms preludes on
organs without a swell box.
"Possible"? But is it advisable?
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
Michael Haslam
2006-05-25 08:32:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
The swell box hadn't been invented yet in JSB's time, and it's
indispensible for the Romantic literature. (And I doubt you can do
justice to Messiaen without lots of combination-pistons, not a
possibility on a tracker action.) (I won't, however, defend the
crescendo pedal.)
There is evidence of swell boxes in Spain at the time of Bach. The
presence of a swell-box on an organ does not render it unsuitable for
Bach;
Oh, Michael! The oldest logical fallacy in the book! The _absence_ of
enclosed divisions renders an organ unsuitable for Romantic organ music;
the only logical deduction from that statement is, "If an organ is
suitable for Romantic organ music, then it has enclosed divisions."
My statement is musically true independently of its logical status. An
organ can be suitable for Bach *and* suitable for Romantic music.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
If there were swell boxes in Spain in the early 18th century, then Mr.
Audsley didn't know about them. Or Mr. Barnes, whose many-editioned work
on the history of the American organ was my favorite book among my
organist roommate's library.
Audsley, Schmaudsley! It is a specialised area but there is some
discussion if you go to:

http://www.mander-organs.com/

Enter the site, click on Discussion and choose General Discussion.
Scroll down about 20 topics and you will see "Spanish Swell Boxes".

The Anglophone organhistorians have clung to the belief that the swell
box was a British invention, but it seems likely that Abraham Jordan
picked it up via the trade links between Bristol and Iberia.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
you don't have to use the swell pedal. It is not certain that
Mendelssohn intended the use of a swell box when he used crescendo and
diminuendo marks in his organ works. Combination pistons exist on the
majority of modern tracker action organs of more than about 20-25 stops;
don't confuse mechanical KEY action with mechanical STOP action. The
organs of Messiaen's youth frequently only had ventils not settable
pistons.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Donald R. M. Paterson had a tiny enclosed division included in the
Helmut Wolff Opus 7 that was installed in Anabel Taylor Chapel at
Cornell University in 1972, because his two passions were the French
Baroque (he was one of the organists who inaugurated the G. F. Adam in
the balcony of St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, which was so French-Baroque
that it wasn't good for much of anything else, and I think it was
replaced not long after) and Brahms.
The Wolff website gives the Cornell organ as Opus 6:

Ithaca, NY Cornell University, Anabel Taylor Chapel 1972
II/P 18 stops, 22 ranks

Is that right? If so, to have one manual of an 18-stop two-manual organ
as "tiny" (ie < 4 stops) would be idiosyncratic. There is a place for a
three or four stop swell (or choir/positive) when there are maybe 6 or 7
stops on the main division, but to get the total up to 18 for a
neo-classical or neo-baroque instrument there would normally be 7 stops
on one manual, 6 on the other and 5 on the pedal, ±1.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
It is certainly possible to play most of the late Brahms preludes on
organs without a swell box.
"Possible"? But is it advisable?
I think Brahms would have approved! In the same way that he chose to
write for the natural horn in his trio and eagerly awaited each
forthcoming volume of the Bach Gesellschaft he would have appreciated
the playing of his own chorale preludes in a fashion and on an
instrument appropriate to those of JSB.
--
MJHaslam
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
"Can't you show a little restraint?" - Dr. David Tholen
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-25 13:31:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
The swell box hadn't been invented yet in JSB's time, and it's
indispensible for the Romantic literature. (And I doubt you can do
justice to Messiaen without lots of combination-pistons, not a
possibility on a tracker action.) (I won't, however, defend the
crescendo pedal.)
There is evidence of swell boxes in Spain at the time of Bach. The
presence of a swell-box on an organ does not render it unsuitable for
Bach;
Oh, Michael! The oldest logical fallacy in the book! The _absence_ of
enclosed divisions renders an organ unsuitable for Romantic organ music;
the only logical deduction from that statement is, "If an organ is
suitable for Romantic organ music, then it has enclosed divisions."
My statement is musically true independently of its logical status. An
organ can be suitable for Bach *and* suitable for Romantic music.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
If there were swell boxes in Spain in the early 18th century, then Mr.
Audsley didn't know about them. Or Mr. Barnes, whose many-editioned work
on the history of the American organ was my favorite book among my
organist roommate's library.
Audsley, Schmaudsley! It is a specialised area but there is some
http://www.mander-organs.com/
Enter the site, click on Discussion and choose General Discussion.
Scroll down about 20 topics and you will see "Spanish Swell Boxes".
The Anglophone organhistorians have clung to the belief that the swell
box was a British invention, but it seems likely that Abraham Jordan
picked it up via the trade links between Bristol and Iberia.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
you don't have to use the swell pedal. It is not certain that
Mendelssohn intended the use of a swell box when he used crescendo and
diminuendo marks in his organ works. Combination pistons exist on the
majority of modern tracker action organs of more than about 20-25 stops;
don't confuse mechanical KEY action with mechanical STOP action. The
organs of Messiaen's youth frequently only had ventils not settable
pistons.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Donald R. M. Paterson had a tiny enclosed division included in the
Helmut Wolff Opus 7 that was installed in Anabel Taylor Chapel at
Cornell University in 1972, because his two passions were the French
Baroque (he was one of the organists who inaugurated the G. F. Adam in
the balcony of St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue, which was so French-Baroque
that it wasn't good for much of anything else, and I think it was
replaced not long after) and Brahms.
Only off by one after 35 years!
Post by Michael Haslam
Ithaca, NY Cornell University, Anabel Taylor Chapel 1972
II/P 18 stops, 22 ranks
Is that right? If so, to have one manual of an 18-stop two-manual organ
as "tiny" (ie < 4 stops) would be idiosyncratic. There is a place for a
three or four stop swell (or choir/positive) when there are maybe 6 or 7
stops on the main division, but to get the total up to 18 for a
neo-classical or neo-baroque instrument there would normally be 7 stops
on one manual, 6 on the other and 5 on the pedal, ±1.
Somewhere, I hope, I still have the program from the dedicatory recital.
You'd think they'd give their stoplists at their website. But there's a
tiny Brustwerk.
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
It is certainly possible to play most of the late Brahms preludes on
organs without a swell box.
"Possible"? But is it advisable?
I think Brahms would have approved! In the same way that he chose to
write for the natural horn in his trio and eagerly awaited each
forthcoming volume of the Bach Gesellschaft he would have appreciated
the playing of his own chorale preludes in a fashion and on an
instrument appropriate to those of JSB.
So where he wrote hairpins, they were actually mistakes for
accent-marks?
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
Michael Haslam
2006-05-25 15:12:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Michael Haslam
It is certainly possible to play most of the late Brahms preludes on
organs without a swell box.
"Possible"? But is it advisable?
I think Brahms would have approved! In the same way that he chose to
write for the natural horn in his trio and eagerly awaited each
forthcoming volume of the Bach Gesellschaft he would have appreciated
the playing of his own chorale preludes in a fashion and on an
instrument appropriate to those of JSB.
So where he wrote hairpins, they were actually mistakes for
accent-marks?
Making a good gin and French you "think" the French; playing Brahms on
an organ without a swell box you "think" the hairpins. I've temporarily
mislaid my copy; I'm sure there are at least several of the eleven with
no hairpins.
--
MJHaslam
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
"Can't you show a little restraint?" - Dr. David Tholen
JohnGavin
2006-05-24 14:04:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
A baroque organ can accommodate neo-classic works like the Hindemith
Sonatas or Pepping Chorales, but won't work for the full-bodied 19th
Century Symphonic works. The resources are just not adequate, and the
sound is basically wrong - it would be analagous to playing
Rachmaninoff Preludes on a fortepiano.

On the other hand, I've heard Messiaen played on large trackers (i.e.
French on the Flentrop on the Loft Label.) It works beautifully, and
the textures have never sounded clearer. Also on this recording are
some Improvisations by Charles Tournemire. This organ is one of the
largest trackers in the world. It's the Flentrop at St. Marks
Cathedral in Seattle, WA.
Michael Haslam
2006-05-24 22:58:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by JohnGavin
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(And that includes not trying to play
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Brahms or Widor or Messiaen on a Bach-style organ, of course.)
This is an interesting area. The most important aspects of a particular
organ are its abilities to inspire the player and captivate the
audience. This will, admittedly, be partly down to fashion and taste but
an organ designed to play Bach well, based on historical principles,
will probably do justice to music of other eras and nationalities too,
if not with great "authenticity".
A baroque organ can accommodate neo-classic works like the Hindemith
Sonatas or Pepping Chorales, but won't work for the full-bodied 19th
Century Symphonic works. The resources are just not adequate, and the
sound is basically wrong - it would be analagous to playing
Rachmaninoff Preludes on a fortepiano.
More wrong than playing Bach on the piano? That happens *all* the time.
Post by JohnGavin
On the other hand, I've heard Messiaen played on large trackers (i.e.
French on the Flentrop on the Loft Label.) It works beautifully, and
the textures have never sounded clearer. Also on this recording are
some Improvisations by Charles Tournemire. This organ is one of the
largest trackers in the world. It's the Flentrop at St. Marks
Cathedral in Seattle, WA.
I think as long as the combination of instrument and player is *musical*
there's a good chance that whatever is programmed will work. I play the
Estampie from the Robertsbridge Fragment on modern organs of all sorts.
--
MJHaslam
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
"Can't you show a little restraint?" - Dr. David Tholen
tomdeacon
2006-05-24 13:23:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Gabriel Parra
Note to authenticists: music ought to be about good vs. bad, not
correct vs. incorrect. The scourge of political correctness has found
its analogue in the "historical performance practice" movement in
music, a fundamentalist approach that's a threat to the survival of
great music as a terrorist may be to the survival of the species.
Wow - I've never seen HIP linked to the war on terror before. In what way is
HIP 'politically correct' and how do the extremely diverse approaches
contained therein constitute 'fundamentalism'?
Neither have I. But it fits.
Fundamentalists go back to the sources. First sources.
They most certainly do not!
Presumably you are referring to the biblical fundamentalists who emerged
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
Post by tomdeacon
So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic", that their ornaments are "correct", and
that their tempi are quick, that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......
Of course they're more "authentic."
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

The only really authentic human being is, of course the APE!!!!
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Nonsense, of course.
Maybe you don't understand English too well.
No. I am challenged in that regard. I feel far more assured in French,
for example. But one thing I am able to recognize on sight:
intellectual constipation.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
Tureck is Buckley's favorite musician. That's quite a few strikes against her right there.
Buckley?

A great man, no question.

Does this mean that you are a L-I-B-E-R-A-L?????

Don't you know that this forum is ruled by the Right.

On the right, in the right is the motto around here.

Get thee to a nunnery.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
When has Rosen plumbed music from earlier than the Classical era?
Oh, I do apologize.

I have, on a number of occasions, been privileged to have had several
social interactions with this great man. He is highly intelligent, and
entertaining, as well as supremely knowledgeable.

He could even take you on on your home ground, I dare say. I doubt he
speaks Persian, but I would say he can probably provide you with a fair
history of the language and its many linguistic developments.

He also can tell you a bit about the cuisines of the world.

But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".

TD
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 13:34:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
When has Rosen plumbed music from earlier than the Classical era?
Oh, I do apologize.
I'm pretty sure I've read all his books.
Post by tomdeacon
I have, on a number of occasions, been privileged to have had several
social interactions with this great man. He is highly intelligent, and
entertaining, as well as supremely knowledgeable.
He could even take you on on your home ground, I dare say. I doubt he
speaks Persian, but I would say he can probably provide you with a fair
history of the language and its many linguistic developments.
Eh? What's Persian got to do with me? What "many linguistic
developments" do you have in mind?
Post by tomdeacon
He also can tell you a bit about the cuisines of the world.
Whereas the late Chicago professor of linguistics, Jim McCawley, could
actually _cook_ most of them -- and regularly did so for large
gatherings.
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
The joke's on you, dipshit. At a lecture-demonstration at the University
of Chicago (where he was nominally a professor for a few remarkably
unproductive years), when he'd been talking about using the pedals in
Beethoven, I noted that back in 1970, Malcolm Bilsson's fortepiano was
provided with a divided damper system (operated by the knees) that
controlled the dampers for the upper and lower halves of the keyboard
separately. Mr. Bilsson aserted that one couldn't play the Waldstein
properly without such separate control. Rosen's response: "Well, maybe
_Malcolm_ can't."
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
tomdeacon
2006-05-24 20:08:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
The joke's on you, dipshit.
Goodness me!

What language!

And from someone who would seem to frequent the university environment,
as well.

Just shocking! And uncalled for, of course.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
At a lecture-demonstration at the University
of Chicago (where he was nominally a professor for a few remarkably
unproductive years), when he'd been talking about using the pedals in
Beethoven, I noted that back in 1970, Malcolm Bilsson's fortepiano was
provided with a divided damper system (operated by the knees) that
controlled the dampers for the upper and lower halves of the keyboard
separately. Mr. Bilsson aserted that one couldn't play the Waldstein
properly without such separate control. Rosen's response: "Well, maybe
_Malcolm_ can't."
No joke.

Rosen was correct. If there is a joke it is on that pathetic Mr.
Bilsson, whom I witnessed as being unable to play a scale properly.

The Waldstein was always a specialite de la maison with Rosen. Bilsson
is a rank amateur, masquerading as a pro. Appalling!

TD
Edward Jasiewicz
2006-05-24 20:25:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
At a lecture-demonstration at the University
of Chicago (where he was nominally a professor for a few remarkably
unproductive years), when he'd been talking about using the pedals in
Beethoven, I noted that back in 1970, Malcolm Bilsson's fortepiano was
provided with a divided damper system (operated by the knees) that
controlled the dampers for the upper and lower halves of the keyboard
separately. Mr. Bilsson aserted that one couldn't play the Waldstein
properly without such separate control. Rosen's response: "Well, maybe
_Malcolm_ can't."
Seems they are talking about the pedal marking for the theme of the last
movement. Bilsson is already completely wrong, then, at least in terms of
what Beethoven intended with this pedal marking. Listen to Schnabel or
Norton, among others, who know how to interpret this unusual score
instruction. Any attempt to use the "middle" pedal or its equivalent to
separate the harmonies "normally" here is exactly *not* what Beethoven
designed. I can't believe a so-called Beethoven specialist wouldn't readily
know that.

-Ed
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 23:45:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Edward Jasiewicz
Post by Peter T. Daniels
At a lecture-demonstration at the University
of Chicago (where he was nominally a professor for a few remarkably
unproductive years), when he'd been talking about using the pedals in
Beethoven, I noted that back in 1970, Malcolm Bilsson's fortepiano was
provided with a divided damper system (operated by the knees) that
controlled the dampers for the upper and lower halves of the keyboard
separately. Mr. Bilsson aserted that one couldn't play the Waldstein
properly without such separate control. Rosen's response: "Well, maybe
_Malcolm_ can't."
Seems they are talking about the pedal marking for the theme of the last
movement. Bilsson is already completely wrong, then, at least in terms of
what Beethoven intended with this pedal marking. Listen to Schnabel or
Norton, among others, who know how to interpret this unusual score
instruction. Any attempt to use the "middle" pedal or its equivalent to
separate the harmonies "normally" here is exactly *not* what Beethoven
designed. I can't believe a so-called Beethoven specialist wouldn't readily
know that.
Rosen, I presume, being the "so-called Beethoven specialist"?

I find the Gardiner-Bilsson Mozart concertos still at the top of an
awful lot of lists of Mozart concerto sets.
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
tomdeacon
2006-05-25 01:06:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I find the Gardiner-Bilsson Mozart concertos still at the top of an
awful lot of lists of Mozart concerto sets.
Smoke and mirrors.

He simply cannot play.

End of story.

TD
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-25 13:33:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I find the Gardiner-Bilsson Mozart concertos still at the top of an
awful lot of lists of Mozart concerto sets.
Smoke and mirrors.
He simply cannot play.
End of story.
Yet somehow he's parlayed that inability into a 40-year teaching career
(I guess, since he was at Cornell before I got there in 1968) and at
least 30 years of touring and recording.

You should only be so good at whatever it is you do!
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
tomdeacon
2006-05-25 13:44:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I find the Gardiner-Bilsson Mozart concertos still at the top of an
awful lot of lists of Mozart concerto sets.
Smoke and mirrors.
He simply cannot play.
End of story.
Yet somehow he's parlayed that inability into a 40-year teaching career
(I guess, since he was at Cornell before I got there in 1968) and at
least 30 years of touring and recording.
Lots of mediocre pianists "tour and record".

Ever heard of Lang Lang.

At least LL can play the piano.

As for his "teaching", I suppose you would have to tell me whom he has
taught. Then I shall judge his abilities at that profession.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You should only be so good at whatever it is you do!
I am far better, in fact.

And I can actually play a C major scale without tripping on the way up.

TD
Nightingale
2006-05-25 19:28:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You should only be so good at whatever it is you do!
If it's the same person I heard on the radio a while ago, he seemed to know a
lot about piano music.
Nightingale
2006-05-24 13:58:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
So do the HIPsters. They actually believe that because their
instruments are "authentic", that their ornaments are "correct", and
What about tuning?
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
that their tempi are quick, that they are more fundamentally authentic
than Furtwangler, Walter, Toscanini, Pollini, Richter, Perlman......
Of course they're more "authentic."
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
The only really authentic human being is, of course the APE!!!!
So is music history an example of progress or evolution then, and the newest
instruments and compositions are the best?
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Why do you call it nasty?
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
Tureck is Buckley's favorite musician. That's quite a few strikes against her right there.
Buckley?
A great man, no question.
Does this mean that you are a L-I-B-E-R-A-L?????
Don't you know that this forum is ruled by the Right.
Since when? I thought this newsgroup was about MUSIC.
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
We used a book by him as our text for the Classical Music class, and I thought
it was great - much better than most of the previous books we've been given. He
would not be my first choice if I needed information on early music.
f***@hotmail.com
2006-05-24 14:27:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
The only really authentic human being is, of course the APE!!!!
So is music history an example of progress or evolution then, and the newest
instruments and compositions are the best?
LOL :-))) Well said!
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Sadly, quite often this is true. Still much HIP string playing sounds
that way - but happily matters are changing rapidly now.

It's really a strange thing with these gut strings: they can sound
incredibly warm and rich, but they can just as well sound as Mr. Deacon
says, steely, scratchy, mean, nasty.

But - big surprise - this depends on the PLAYER.

There are plenty of atrocious recordings on modern instruments around,
there are plenty of banging pianists and nasty-sounding violinists
around - but with modern instruments, it's all the player's fault,
while with HIP it's all HIP's fault.

Don't quite get the logic here...

And if people can rave about the tiniest colorations Mr. Great-Old-Dead
XYZ got to get out of his modern piano/violin/horn/whatever, why are so
many people deaf to say the timbral riches of a Pleyel? Rubinstein gets
an amazing variety of sound out of his Steinway in the Chopin
nocturnes, but van Oort has a Pleyel - and there every note as a
different sound. Why does this not count?

But don't be mistaken: there are really plenty of nasty fortepiano
recordings around, but it's not the fault of HIP, it's the fault of bad
fortepianos or bad playing.

Some things are really hard for me to understand. Why all of this
hostility?

Floor, now listening to Brandenburg concerto 4 with Concerto Italiano/
Alessandrini
tomdeacon
2006-05-24 20:12:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nightingale
So is music history an example of progress or evolution then, and the newest
instruments and compositions are the best?
So nice to have a conversation with a bird!
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Why do you call it nasty?
Because it is. Can't you hear?
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by tomdeacon
Rosen and Tureck have been saying as much for decades. But this is, as
you say, the first time I have seen it linked to fundamentalism in
religion.
Tureck is Buckley's favorite musician. That's quite a few strikes against her right there.
Buckley?
A great man, no question.
Does this mean that you are a L-I-B-E-R-A-L?????
Don't you know that this forum is ruled by the Right.
Since when? I thought this newsgroup was about MUSIC.
Don't be silly!
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
We used a book by him as our text for the Classical Music class, and I thought
it was great - much better than most of the previous books we've been given. He
would not be my first choice if I needed information on early music.
You'd be wrong.

Mr. Rosen's brain holds about as much information as any sane human
being I have ever met. And on more subjects that you can possibly
imagine.

I don't use the word genius very often. But Rosen is one.

Get down on your knees!

TD
Nightingale
2006-05-25 19:51:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
So is music history an example of progress or evolution then, and the newest
instruments and compositions are the best?
So nice to have a conversation with a bird!
Tweet! :-)
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Why do you call it nasty?
Because it is. Can't you hear?
In the great majority of concerts I've attended, especially more recent ones, I
disagree with your comments of meaner and quite nasty, although I have heard a
few early music performances that I would describe that way. (I've heard equally
nasty classical and new music concerts.) For some music, leaner suits it.

You've made a very broad statement, and I'm curious what you are listening to
that you hear it that way. Is it certain types of instruments, certain
composers, or certain performers?
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Don't you know that this forum is ruled by the Right.
Since when? I thought this newsgroup was about MUSIC.
Don't be silly!
What group would actually be about classical music then? I'm not actually
interested in politics, either Left or Right.
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
We used a book by him as our text for the Classical Music class, and I thought
it was great - much better than most of the previous books we've been given. He
would not be my first choice if I needed information on early music.
You'd be wrong.
I don't think so. I've got some wonderful books on early music, none by him,
and I know several teachers and performers who I could call if I was really
stuck on something - my singing teacher knows baroque music very well, and some
of my dad's friends are experts in earlier music.
Post by tomdeacon
Mr. Rosen's brain holds about as much information as any sane human
being I have ever met. And on more subjects that you can possibly
imagine.
I don't use the word genius very often. But Rosen is one.
From what I have read by and about him, I don't doubt your evaluation of
genius. That still doesn't mean that he is the best source of information on
all topics.
Post by tomdeacon
Get down on your knees!
Not for any man, no mater how brilliant.
Tweetie
2006-05-28 00:05:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
So is music history an example of progress or evolution then, and the newest
instruments and compositions are the best?
So nice to have a conversation with a bird!
Tweet! :-)
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Peter T. Daniels
That doesn't mean they make "better
music," for whatever value of "better" you may prefer. Many of us prefer
the clarity of expression that's heard when music is played on the
instruments it was written for.
It's not clearer. It's leaner. And meaner. And actually quite nasty.
Why do you call it nasty?
Because it is. Can't you hear?
In the great majority of concerts I've attended, especially more recent ones, I
disagree with your comments of meaner and quite nasty, although I have heard a
few early music performances that I would describe that way. (I've heard equally
nasty classical and new music concerts.) For some music, leaner suits it.
You've made a very broad statement, and I'm curious what you are listening to
that you hear it that way. Is it certain types of instruments, certain
composers, or certain performers?
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Don't you know that this forum is ruled by the Right.
Since when? I thought this newsgroup was about MUSIC.
Don't be silly!
What group would actually be about classical music then? I'm not actually
interested in politics, either Left or Right.
Post by tomdeacon
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
But back to the point: you would absolutely HATE hearing his views on
the "authenticists".
We used a book by him as our text for the Classical Music class, and I thought
it was great - much better than most of the previous books we've been given. He
would not be my first choice if I needed information on early music.
You'd be wrong.
I don't think so. I've got some wonderful books on early music, none by him,
and I know several teachers and performers who I could call if I was really
stuck on something - my singing teacher knows baroque music very well, and some
of my dad's friends are experts in earlier music.
Post by tomdeacon
Mr. Rosen's brain holds about as much information as any sane human
being I have ever met. And on more subjects that you can possibly
imagine.
I don't use the word genius very often. But Rosen is one.
From what I have read by and about him, I don't doubt your evaluation of
genius. That still doesn't mean that he is the best source of information on
all topics.
Post by tomdeacon
Get down on your knees!
Not for any man, no mater how brilliant.
Not even the kook of your dreams?
Nightingale
2006-05-28 17:51:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Tweetie
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Get down on your knees!
Not for any man, no mater how brilliant.
Not even the kook of your dreams?
Plonk.
Tweetie
2006-05-29 05:34:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Nightingale
Post by Tweetie
Post by Nightingale
Post by tomdeacon
Get down on your knees!
Not for any man, no mater how brilliant.
Not even the kook of your dreams?
Plonk.
The truth hurts, eh?

d***@andadv.com
2006-05-24 15:15:07 UTC
Permalink
Peter T. Daniels wrote:> Presumably you are referring to the biblical
fundamentalists who emerged
Post by Peter T. Daniels
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
For a view of the current state of textual criticism of Greek and Latin
New Testament sources (no in-depth view of Hebrew or Aramaic, alas!) in
a rather refreshing and largely readable style, try Bart D. Ehrman's
"Misquoting Jesus." A brief look at how the New Testament was created
and a long look at how transcribing mistakes and on-purpose changes
from copy to copy through the pre-printing press centuries shaped both
individual words and interpretation. (I'm reading it now.) Of course,
Christian sects that rely with absolute certainly on the absolute
holiness of the King James version will find Ehrman's tome absolute
anathema. But then they're so...you know...like, absolute.

Surprising, though, there's no mention of Backhaus anywhere in the
book.
;-D

Dirk
Alan Cooper
2006-05-24 16:21:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@andadv.com
Peter T. Daniels wrote:> Presumably you are referring to the biblical
fundamentalists who emerged
Post by Peter T. Daniels
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
For a view of the current state of textual criticism of Greek and Latin
New Testament sources (no in-depth view of Hebrew or Aramaic, alas!) in
a rather refreshing and largely readable style, try Bart D. Ehrman's
"Misquoting Jesus." A brief look at how the New Testament was created
and a long look at how transcribing mistakes and on-purpose changes
from copy to copy through the pre-printing press centuries shaped both
individual words and interpretation. (I'm reading it now.) Of course,
Christian sects that rely with absolute certainly on the absolute
holiness of the King James version will find Ehrman's tome absolute
anathema. But then they're so...you know...like, absolute.
Please note that Peter was referring correctly to the early
20th-century "fundamentalists," that is, the folks who coined the term
for purposes of self-reference (and the only ones to whom it properly
applies, although it has been extended almost to the point of
meaninglessness). Today's evangelicals are in the forefront when it
comes to the study of the biblical languages. Right-wing Christian
schools such as Fuller, Dallas Theological Seminary, Wheaton,
Westminster, Andrews, etc. are centers of serious linguistic (and in
some cases, archeological() scholarship. Many of the most valuable
resources for biblical study emanate from these institutions, their
graduates and sympathizers--for example, the fully parsed electronic
Hebrew Bible text from Westminster, and the best software tools for
biblical research (BibleWorks, Accordance). The parsed and searchable
electronic edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls comes from (you didn't
guess it!) Brigham Young University.

The use to which some evangelicals put their sophisticated knowledge
and tools is another matter, especially from the liberal point of
view. I, for one, couldn't care less whether or not biblical
narratives are historically accurate, although it means a great deal
to them. Nevertheless, the notion that they are a bunch of yahoos who
think that the King James Version is the literal Word of God is
patently false. Naturally I acknowledge that the results of their
scholarship may not reach every Christian in the pew, but having
taught hundreds of Bible study sessions in churches and synagogues, I
am impressed by the high level of knowledge and interest that popular
audiences have in serious biblical scholarship.

AC
Bob Harper
2006-05-24 17:23:38 UTC
Permalink
Alan Cooper wrote:
(snip)
Post by Alan Cooper
Please note that Peter was referring correctly to the early
20th-century "fundamentalists," that is, the folks who coined the term
for purposes of self-reference (and the only ones to whom it properly
applies, although it has been extended almost to the point of
meaninglessness). Today's evangelicals are in the forefront when it
comes to the study of the biblical languages. Right-wing Christian
schools such as Fuller, Dallas Theological Seminary, Wheaton,
Westminster, Andrews, etc. are centers of serious linguistic (and in
some cases, archeological() scholarship. Many of the most valuable
resources for biblical study emanate from these institutions, their
graduates and sympathizers--for example, the fully parsed electronic
Hebrew Bible text from Westminster, and the best software tools for
biblical research (BibleWorks, Accordance). The parsed and searchable
electronic edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls comes from (you didn't
guess it!) Brigham Young University.
The use to which some evangelicals put their sophisticated knowledge
and tools is another matter, especially from the liberal point of
view. I, for one, couldn't care less whether or not biblical
narratives are historically accurate, although it means a great deal
to them. Nevertheless, the notion that they are a bunch of yahoos who
think that the King James Version is the literal Word of God is
patently false. Naturally I acknowledge that the results of their
scholarship may not reach every Christian in the pew, but having
taught hundreds of Bible study sessions in churches and synagogues, I
am impressed by the high level of knowledge and interest that popular
audiences have in serious biblical scholarship.
AC
Thanks for that. The following website:

http://www.balaams-ass.com/journal/homemake/cslewis.htm

will give readers some insight into the 'thinking' of the 'bunch of
yahoos'. To say that it does not represent the thinking of serious
biblical scholarship of *any* stripe is to belabor the obvious. There
are nuts out there on both ends of the spectrum, and though I'm on the
Right, I find the linked material as insane as you no doubt will.

Bob Harper
d***@andadv.com
2006-05-24 22:22:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Alan Cooper
Nevertheless, the notion that they are a bunch of yahoos who
think that the King James Version is the literal Word of God is
patently false. Naturally I acknowledge that the results of their
scholarship may not reach every Christian in the pew...<SNIP>
Well Alan, first, I am sorry that I added the line about Backhaus and
thus moved my smiley down the message. Otherwise, my comment about
"absolutes" could have been seen as more tongue-in-cheek than it came
across to you. Still, you bring up a couple of points with which I
would take issue.

However sophisticated today's biblical scholars have become (and I
confess to be only partly aware of the tools you enumerate), it's my
observation that the "average" Protestant--the "every Christian in the
pew" you allude to (and I would include the "Christian in the La-Z-Boy
with remote," as well)--clings rather strongly to his or her
preferences when it comes to the scriptures. Makes sense, because so
many Protestant sects/denominations adhere to the principle of the
"priesthood of the individual" (or some similar phrase), requiring
personal reading AND interpretation of the scripture. In the part of
Texas I grew up in--Waco--that preference still seems pretty clearly
King James. It's not that other versions don't get talked about at all;
it's just that the KJ is tried-and-true and, generally, not to be
challenged too strongly with these folks. I had occasion to reaffirm
this myself a couple of years ago, when I went back there to settle my
dad's estate. The old KJ is the version of choice among most of the
informal bible study groups that gather every morning at the local
Starbucks (or "Saint" Arbucks, as many refer to it). And though the
groups comprise a cross-section of assorted sects, not least of these
is a very large and established one: Southern Baptist.

Yes, even with the rise of so many other evangelical variants, Waco is
still largely a Baptist town.

Though formally/technically a non-credal denomination (no Nicene Creed
for them, thanks--though the Apostolic Creed sometimes slips in at
certain functions, I've noticed), Baptists do make it clear in their
occasional confessions and articles of faith precisely how they feel
about the scriptures:

"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's
revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine
instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and
truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all
Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by
which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of
the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard
by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be
tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus
of divine revelation."

Thus saith the Baptists--this statement from just six years ago, in
2000 (with nods to the 1963 and 1925 statements). Nothing specific
about old King James here, it's true. But I wouldn't try quoting
anything else if you find yourself in...uh...animated conversation with
a Baptist down here. At least any of the hardshell variety. Having
grown up in the Southern Baptist church myself (though I wandered away
a good 35 years ago and consider myself a spiritual "mutt"), and having
many current contacts among active Baptists, I still follow this rule
myself. Saves a lot of semantic wrangling.

As to implying that they are "yahoos"--well, that's not a word I used.
But since you brought it up, I'll state that some are and some aren't,
but those hardshell guys do still have their "absolute" attitude about
a rather large number of topics, modern biblical scholarship
notwithstanding.

But how we got here from the Backhaus discussion, I do not recall.
Back to pianists, I say!

Best wishes,

Dirk
Peter T. Daniels
2006-05-24 23:51:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@andadv.com
Peter T. Daniels wrote:> Presumably you are referring to the biblical
fundamentalists who emerged
Post by Peter T. Daniels
at the beginning of the 20th century in the US. Their bible (as it were)
is the King James Version of the Bible (1611), and they are completely
deaf to any scholarship on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text that
might suggest the Authorised translators didn't fully understand the
text. (Applications to Islamic or Jewish "fundamentalism" are extensions
of this term; Martin Marty edited a large number of very large volumes
on the topic worldwide.)
For a view of the current state of textual criticism of Greek and Latin
New Testament sources (no in-depth view of Hebrew or Aramaic, alas!) in
a rather refreshing and largely readable style, try Bart D. Ehrman's
"Misquoting Jesus." A brief look at how the New Testament was created
and a long look at how transcribing mistakes and on-purpose changes
from copy to copy through the pre-printing press centuries shaped both
individual words and interpretation. (I'm reading it now.) Of course,
Christian sects that rely with absolute certainly on the absolute
holiness of the King James version will find Ehrman's tome absolute
anathema. But then they're so...you know...like, absolute.
"Latin NT sources" is oxymoronic.

The claim of "on-purpose changes" is tendentious, to say the least.

Me, I'm reading John van Seters's *The Edited Bible*, which is about the
same sort of questions surrounding the Hebrew Scriptures. He insists --
on the basis of, so far as I can tell so far, nothing but intuition,
that the development of OT scholarship depended slavishly on the
development of Homeric scholarship. But, so far, it all depends on a
very particular (and inappropriate) emphasis on his own interpretation
of the labels "editor" and "redactor."
--
Peter T. Daniels ***@att.net
tomdeacon
2006-05-23 22:51:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Gabriel Parra
Post by tomdeacon
Those interested in the best Backhaus should try to obtain the mono set
from Italy.
Agreed. I obtained mine in Venice and it is in every way superior to
the Stereo set. Same goes for Kempff, by the way, if anything even more
so. Seems like there was a cut-off date in 1960, after which the level
of musicianship in recordings declined appreciably. Perhaps it has
something to do with the fact that as the technology increased, control
of the finished product shifted from the artist to the producer.
Reminds me of when Schnabel was asked to perform a Beethoven sonata
movement again. "It may be more accurate," he said, "but it won't be as
good." (paraphrasing)
If you have the opportunity to listen to the Backhaus volume in the GPE
you will find Backhaus in a more expansive mood in the Beethoven
sonatas he delivered "live" at a famous Carnegie Hall recital in the
mid 1950s.

TD
g***@gmail.com
2006-05-23 16:54:07 UTC
Permalink
My apologies, but Mr. Todd does not appear to have the requisite
experience to be able to review Backhaus' set with any kind of
authority. The "review" betrays a certain ignorance, both of the
musical material at hand and of an entire legacy of Beethoven sonatas
on record. Right from the start, in his review of Op. 2, no. 1, Mr.
Todd writes that Backhaus is "very serious, with little in the way of
charm." Where, exactly, in the first movement of Op. 2, no. 1, is there
any charm to be found or mined? No, Backhaus was rarely charming, but
always fascinating, even in the late sonatas disparaged by this
reviewer. Although I am an avowed Arrau acolyte, whose approach to
these sonatas was almost diametrically opposed, I still find Backhaus
an immensely authoritative interpreter, even if his authority differs
from what I usually prefer. There is an integrity to his playing that's
simply unimpeachable, although he has wrongly been "accused" of
belonging to the "objective school" of playing. As this reviewer
rightly noticed, Backhaus' brand of "objectivity" was limited to a
certain austerity in his approach, which nonetheless did not preclude
him from cultivating one of the most beautiful sonorities on record.
Backhaus was no Toscanini of the keyboard, however; he did not play
works "as written" (no one does, really). His tempi were flexible, his
rhythm pliable, his rubato bountiful. He favored fast speeds, but not
because he sought to highlight his technical apparatus, which was one
of the most marvelous among 20th century pianists. There is a certain
"neurotic" quality to his playing I enjoy, a "go-for-broke" approach
that suits some sonatas more than others. Kovacevich esteems Backhaus'
Hammerklavier as the finest he has come across. I prefer others, but
his is certainly near the top of my list, and certainly better than
Kovacevich's somewhat neutered approach. For all his supposed
detachment, Backhaus was a supremely passionate performer.
Post by Premise Checker
Todd reviews Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)
Stereophile Forums: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas; Or: A whole lotta cycles!
in
http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=4414&page=0&fpart=all&vc=1
[This is the second complete cycle to have recorded. Schnabel's was the
first and Kempff's was the third. Kempff did record most of them on
acoustic and electrical 78s. My Kempff discography can be found at
http://www.panix.com/~checker/kempff.htm. al-Brendel's for Vox was the
fourth and Kempff's stereo remake the fifth. The first three are my own
favorites by far, though I have not heard that many others.]
by Todd#5736 - 03/12/06 11:42 AM (67.2.42.161)
Wilhelm Backhaus (Decca, Mono, early 1950s)
To my mind the biggest hole in my Beethoven sonata collection has
been the absence of Wilhelm Backhaus. Ive had a solitary disc of
his stereo cycle for a while, and the recordings on that disc all
compare very favorably to anyone. Indeed, until hearing Friedrich
Guldas monumental Amadeo recording of the Tempest sonata, I more or
less found Backhaus the best in that sonata. Clearly I had to hear
what the old German master had to say, as it were, in this most
august solo piano repertoire. Determined to hear his take on the
32, I then had to decide which of the two cycles, the mono cycle or
the stereo cycle. Since Backhaus was already in his late 60s by the
time of his mono set, I figured I should go for that one. While he
certainly displays a more than adequate technique in the stereo
disc I own, I figured hed be closer to his prime in the mono
recordings. So I found it and bought it and have started listening
to it.
1. Getting things underway with the first sonata finds a curious
recording. Backhaus is somewhat slow to start, and is extremely
serious, with little in the way of charm. Gradually he picks up the
pace, but he never shakes a slightly mannered, unsmiling sound. The
Adagio is deliberate, but now a bit of feeling is infused into the
playing, bringing it to life. Backhaus varies dynamics and color
nicely, though he never adopts extremes, and he never sounds
especially beautiful. The third movement is even more varied and
buoyant and almost irresistible. The final movement starts as the
first one did a bit slow and mannered; it sounds consciously carved
and not freely flowing. Its never heavy, never ponderous, but never
really nice and fiery. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed the recording.
2. The second sonata opens in a more jovial mood, though its still not
free. It sounds very deliberately planned and played. The Largo is
relatively fast and shows a greater degree of flexibility, but only
within a well-defined range, and it displays a fine tone. All of
this combines to create an insistent, march-like sound. The Scherzo
is light and fast, articulate and infectious. One just sits
spellbound by the playing. The concluding movement is light and
varied, but it maintains an underlying seriousness. Backhaus may be
smiling, but its a forced smile.
3. As I started the third sonata I thought I had Backhaus pegged: hes
deadly serious much like Gulda and plays within a defined, limited
range, but plays as well as can be. But then he throws a curve
ball. The work opens in more or less standard fashion, but then
Backhaus just tears into the work, spinning off notes in a
dazzling, dizzying way, just to slow way down for a bit to
highlight a passage, and then returning to a high-speed,
high-impact style. He plays almost recklessly fast at times. His
rubato, his whole style betrays his heritage; he was born in the
1880s, after all. Why should he just stick to a specific approach?
Anyway, the Adagio is generally quite fast, and is filled with
subtle coloring and rubato to bring it to life. Its not the most
moving reading Ive heard, but it is very effective. The Scherzo
continues the quick playing that Backhaus adopts through the work,
but despite the speed, or perhaps because of it, everything just
flows together beautifully. So of course it should not be
surprising to learn that the final movement is fast, but Backhaus
keeps it all under control.
4. Okay, so now I had him pegged, I thought: hes serious and allows
himself generous leeway in tempi, though he tends to play fast. The
Op 7 sonata had other things in store. The opening movement is
actually played relatively slow, and while I like that, I also
prefer a more relaxed sound, which this does not have. Yet I like
it. A lot. Backhaus basically allows himself the flexibility to do
whatever he wants, whenever he wants. His playing takes on an
almost erratic feel. The Largo just reinforces this. It is a bit
stiff throughout and a bit graceless in spots, and Backhaus tone
varies a lot, too. For a while its lean and stripped down, then its
richer and softer, then bright and hard. These changes can last for
mere seconds or for entire passages. It all depends. The Allegro
continues along this unpredictable path by being extremely
well-paced and quite lovely in parts. The final movement is
something of a marvel. Backhaus starts off fast and plays most of
the work quickly, but hell slow down to savor a beautiful passage
when he deems it appropriate. But hes a bit inconsistent. You think
you know when hell do it, but he doesnt. After repeated listens
(which Im absolutely confident this work will get) Ill know what to
expect, but the first run through is filled with surprises.
[The final minute and a half of the stereo remake of No. 4 is one of the
glories of recorded music, the way it lifts into the empyrean.]
5. The first of the Op 10 sonatas displays Backhaus traits well. The
opening movement is just a tad on the slow, rich side he certainly
doesnt rush the opener like his contemporary Schnabel yet it all
works splendidly. The piece moves along with an irresistible flow
that just sounds right. The Adagio is beautiful and moving, yet
even here he cant seem to leave well enough alone. He cuts some
chords short, seemingly for no reason, slightly dampening the
overall effect. But fortunately not much. The final movement opens
very slowly then builds up speed, and then alternates tempi through
to the end. Backhaus delivery is different than anyone else Ive
heard, yet it all works so well I cant offer a single serious
complaint.
6. The second sonata again begins slowly I think I detect a pattern
but then, out of the blue, Backhaus speeds up not a little, but a
lot. He repeats this pattern a few times, and each time it sounds a
bit frazzled though always under control. The second movement is
quick, articulate, and possesses a serious, contemplative sound.
The third movement, shorn of its repeat, sounds amazingly light and
carefree. All these disjointed elements work to create a slightly
off-kilter feel, but one that jells and works exceedingly well.
7. The final sonata of the group offers playing that almost turns the
work into a miniature drama. The first movement sounds natural.
Nothing is rushed, nothing is out of place; everything is free and
flexible and sounds very attractive. The second movement starts in
a flowing, attractive, yet serious manner, only to be transformed
by some urgent, unsettled playing, changing the whole mood. Why?
One wonders, but as Backhaus reverts to a more conventional take,
it just seems to make sense, even though it cannot be properly
described. The third movement is more upbeat and vital, though even
it has some unique moments. The final movement opens with some
surprisingly tender playing, then moves to a free, open sound, but
then it, too, shifts again, to a more serious, contemplative sound,
before shifting yet again. What is Backhaus getting at? I for one
must listen again to try to figure it out. It is a remarkable
recording.
8. So now comes the Pathetique. I figured Backhaus would go for fast,
vital, and pointed approach. Nope. The piece actually opens softly,
with some weaker than expected chords and slower than expected
runs. But an anticipatory, subdued nervous feeling makes itself
known and persists. Backhaus slowly and carefully builds up
tension, but he never releases it, rather choosing to let it abate
but never disappear. The cumulative effect is engrossing. One waits
to hear what happens next. The second movement never really goes
too slow or too deep, but rather focuses on maintaining that
subdued and unreleased tension. The finale offers more of the same,
and Backhaus just never lets loose like he obviously can. Its a bit
maddening, really, and Backhaus is obviously playing it a bit safe,
a bit comfortable. But for the life of me, it works! Indeed, I can
think of few recordings I like a lot more.
9-10. I came upon the Op 14 sonatas ready for glossed over recordings
acting as a bridge to the bigger works to come. Backhaus style
seems better suited to bigger, more serious works. Or so I thought.
These recordings are quite possibly the greatest Ive heard of these
two works. The first sonata opens familiarly: its just a smidgeon
slower than I usually prefer, but then turns fast, then slow, then
fast again, then slow again, all seamlessly and effortlessly. Its
relaxed. Its cheery. Its spiffy. The second movement is just about
perfect: its perfectly paced with perfect dynamics and perfect
tone. Its light and refreshing and amazing. The final movement is,
well, its friggin perfect. Marvelous, articulate fingerwork and
perfect weight (not too much) combined with a free and flexible
style out of a past age all combine to make it perfect. The second
sonata isnt quite played to the same level of perfection, but its
close. The slightly cutting sound cannot mask the marvelously light
and flexible playing of the first movement. Despite a bit of
brittleness, the second movement is just peachy: light, charming,
and tender, it captivates with each wonderful note. To finish off
the work is a plucky n ducky and effortless final movement, with
Backhaus deploying his rubato subtly and discreetly and most
effectively. These two recordings offer some serious fun. Amazing.
Even in the first ten sonatas it is clear that this is Beethoven
playing on an altogether higher level than most pianists ever
achieve. When I consider the two excellent cycles I just finished,
Lucchesini and Lipkin, they merely serve to underscore just how
good Backhaus is. I said of Lipkin that even when I disagree with
his choices, he still makes the piece work. With Backhaus, while
some playing here and there may not sound ideal at first, he makes
me realize that he is right and I a knave for even questioning his
judgment. His Beethoven sounds right and sounds, as much as I
dislike this description, natural. This is how Beethoven should
sound. Finally, Friedrich Gulda has been matched. Maybe even Annie.
I must hear more to know for sure.
Some quick words on sound. The recordings show their age. Some
distortion and breakup can be heard in places, and some upper
register notes have an unpleasant ring to them (its definitely the
recording and not the playing), but overall the sound is more than
acceptable given the age of the recordings.
11. Would Backhaus sound as impressive in the next batch? I wondered.
It took almost no time at all to hear the answer: Yes! The Op 22
sonata can be a difficult one to pull off successfully, and there
are a number of ways to do it. Backhaus finds his own way. The
opening movement is taken at a nice clip, alert and flexible, but
not too quick. The second movement is quite marvelous. Theres a
relaxed feel about it, but also a sort of less-is-more approach. It
seems stripped down, with little in the way of showiness or excess
anything. The third movement finds Backhaus really digging in,
hammering out the notes with notable strength and force, but he
never devolves into mere banging; there is sense of control and
ultimate restraint. Its quite nice. The final movement is tense and
not ideally flowing, but, in Backhaus conception, caps off yet
another fine recording.
12. The Op 26 sonata opens in glorious fashion. Backhaus playing of the
Andante theme is the epitome of direct, unaffected Beethoven
playing, with everything sounding so right that complaints are
frivolous. As the variations begin, the playing changes to a more
austere, almost hard sound, but even that works. The Scherzo is
driven, and rather charmless, but still, particularly in this work,
effective. The funeral march is very solemn and very serious, but
its not big or grand or especially funereal, nor is it effective as
a march. Yet the solemnity makes the movement. Backhaus chooses to
end this serious, almost dour interpretation with a final movement
that is harder and more serious than is usually ideal, but not
here.
13. Time for the first of the Sonatas quasi una fantasia. Would
Backhaus be fantastic or something else, something sterner?
Something sterner is the answer, at least initially. The piece
opens in a serious, almost heavy way, hardly creating a fantastic
or partially fantastic sound world, yet it sounds appealing. Then
Backhaus transitions to an almost blistering fast Allegro section.
The return to the initial theme is lighter than before and is quite
effective. The second movement starts slowly and quietly and doesnt
really break out until the end; Backhaus almost treats the movement
as one long crescendo. The Adagio is slow and somber and if its not
especially moving, it still sounds fine to me. The final part of
the work is taken as a hard, fast gallop, and though it eases up a
bit before the end, the coda is also quite fast. Backhaus plays
this work in mercurial fashion to say the least, and if it doesnt
quite scale the heights, its quite good.
14. The same cant be written about the Mondschein sonata. No, this is
one of the greatest recordings this work has ever received! The
opening movement sounds exactly like it should, exactly like I have
always hoped it would. It is dark, somber, with a sense of
melancholy, and Backhaus uses the sustain pedal just so, creating
the perfect degree of haze and blur. It sets the mood perfectly.
Perfectly! The second movement sounds brighter, and more upbeat at
least compared to the opening movement and Backhaus refrains from
too much of anything: speed, volume, expressiveness. Its all
perfectly realized. The third movement is almost perfect. Only some
slightly unclear passages and wobbly, insecure playing (as at 139
and a few other spots) mar an otherwise ideal realization of the
movement. Backhaus desynchronized left hand offers a rocking, solid
underpinning to the right, and if he never completely lets loose,
he plays with enough of all the right elements to make this one to
hear again and again.
15. The Pastorale is not quite as successful. The opening has odd,
stilted left hand playing that seems out of place, though Backhaus
quickly gains a more solid footing, as it were. Even so, the
opening movement never really flows. Between the 2 and 3 or so
mark, the piece takes on an unusually tense sound, though it
reverts back to a more standard conception. The Andante sounds
relatively standard in conception, and is delivered extremely well,
though even here there are tense, terse moments that seem a bit out
of place. The Scherzo, though, is quick and bubbly and eminently
enjoyable. The final movement is quick and charming, with Backhaus
happily dashing off the notes. To an extent it reminds me of
Giesekings approach to Beethoven, though the tone and style is
still uniquely Backhaus. Overall, this is a good reading, but its
not one of the highlights of the cycle.
16. So now its time for the critical Op 31 sonatas. Ive had his stereo
take of the Tempest for a while, and I love that one, so I had very
high hopes for that one going in, but what about the others? Well,
the first sonata satisfies, thats for sure. The quick, alert, and
generally light playing of the opening more than offsets the
occasional opacity and stiffness of the playing. The mood is right,
and thats what matters most. The second movement is playful, with
Backhaus injecting unique little touches everywhere. He opens most
of the trills at a moderate pace only to speed up to just the right
tempo in a smooth, effortless way. Backhaus agility and clarity
here are really superb, as is amply demonstrated in the remarkably
fast middle section. Perhaps some may find it a bit rushed, but
damn, its fun! The concluding Rondo offers more of the same, and
even if its not technically the most secure recording Ive heard,
the unyielding forward momentum makes it one of the most enjoyable.
So, one winner out of one.
17. The Tempest makes it two. The work opens in slow, dark, and
mysterious fashion, and maintains these qualities pretty much
throughout. As a result, this becomes an almost grim reading, with
Backhaus opting to not play the dynamic contrasts in a flashy way,
but rather in a downtrodden, moody way, making the piece alter
between despair and agony. Uplifting it may not be, but it is quite
effective. The Adagio is a bit mannered and overly controlled, but
in the context of this recording it sounds right. The final
movement is sharp, pointed, urgent, and a bit unyielding. Yes, this
is a dark conception of the work, and if I still prefer his stereo
remake a bit more, this is unquestionably a fine reading.
18. The final sonata of the trio makes it three! Fast, vital, and a bit
rough at times, Backhaus just burns right through the opener. Gruff
humor abounds, and it sounds just peachy. The Scherzo keeps up this
feeling. Maybe the Menuetto is a bit stiff, but Backhaus uses
perfect tempi, a perfect tone, and creates the perfect feeling. The
same holds true for the conclusion. Overall, the forward momentum
interrupted by basically cheery and rough outbursts evokes just the
feeling I like.
So, Backhaus nails the critical three, and otherwise does an
admirable or (far) better job on every other sonata in the eight
sonatas in this batch. As with the opening group of ten sonatas,
everything sounds so right, so natural that I cant resist. This is
indeed Beethoven playing of the highest order.
19-20. Moving along to the Op 49 sonatas finds Backhaus in fine form, and
shows that he can do extremely well in small, less grand fare. The
first of the sonatas is just fine: its not too heavy, and though
Backhaus definitely favors quick tempi, he still displays a nicely
variable touch and never ticks over into overbearing intensity.
Better is the second sonata. The opening movement is superb, and
continues along the same lines as the first sonata. But the reason
to hear this recording is unquestionably the second movement. Light
n tight n fun, Backhaus revels in the music and plays with a tender
touch. He does better than most in evoking the wonderful Septet.
Superb.
21. Now its time for some weightier fare. Counter to my expectations,
Backhaus doesnt open the Waldstein especially fast. Hes not slow,
mind you, he just doesnt rip through it. He does manage to
establish a unique and uniquely appealing brusque yet touching feel
to the opener. The second movement comes across as somber,
searching, and brooding with only some sharp, biting playing to add
variability. Its not a feel-good sound (and thats good for me).
Given the somewhat hard and dark preceding movements, Backhaus does
something nearly magical with the third: he opens in gentle, tender
fashion, then builds up the movement with physically strong and
emotionally moving playing. Indeed, the whole work seems to build
up to the end; any minor reservations I may have had here and there
in the first part of the work are washed away by the cumulative
power of the recording. I dont know, the cutting sound may even
have helped things out.
22. For the Op 54 sonata, Backhaus opts for a fast and intense
approach, or at least notably more so than many interpreters. The
opening movement is largely fast and punchy, though Backhaus does
back off in a few spots for some softer playing. The second
movement, though, is almost all fast and furious. Sometimes
Backhaus threatens to tip over into outright reckless playing, with
no regard for accuracy, but he never quite does. It creates an air
of excitement. Throw in some greater than normal low register heft,
and what one has here is some high intensity middle Beethoven. Tis
pretty good.
23. I admit to liking Backhaus stereo Appassionata and assumed I would
like this one, too. I do. But not as much. Backhaus opens up with a
hard, intense, and metallic sound, though he also sounds a bit
short of completely assured. He just wallops out the piece, though
even he cant maintain the highest level of intensity throughout.
The piano sound is colorless and cold, and that actually works
here. The Andante is well played but a bit cool, and it maintains
the same colorless, cold sound. Backhaus turns up the heat in the
second half, and things improve a bit, though the very end of the
movement ends a bit strangely. It seems more contained than a lead
in to the final movement. The final movement is intense throughout,
though the lack of the repeat detracts from the success of the
work, as is invariably the case. So, while this is an intense
reading, there is quite a bit missing, and while still good, I
still prefer the stereo remake as well as a number of others.
24-25. Now its time for a trio of sonatas where Backhaus is among the very
best interpreters, and perhaps even the best. The Op 78 and 79 and
Les Adieux from his stereo set have ranked among my very favorites
since I first heard them, so I had very high expectations here.
They were more than met. Backhaus has the Op 78 down cold.
Everything about it is perfect: its perfectly weighted (not too
heavy or ponderous) and perfectly paced (fast, but not too fast),
with a perfectly variable touch and discreet rubato and pedaling.
Its simultaneously light and serious. The same can pretty much be
said about the Op 79 sonata. Backhaus opens in ideal fashion fast,
strong, and articulate but never cutting. The forward momentum he
generates means that Backhaus may burn through the humorous off-key
portion near the end, but any complaints are so minor as to be
piffle. The second movement is surprisingly somber and weighty and
attractive, serving to add heft to the piece. Tis sublime. And in
the final movement, Backhaus again pulls off the trick of being
simultaneously serious and light. He is amazing in these works.
[The stereo remake of No. 25 is esp. great.]
26. Ditto the 81a. The work opens in a nicely disconsolate,
contemplative fashion. To heighten this effect, Backhaus chooses to
hold back on the first crescendo he doesnt want to give away
anything too early. The restraint adds a nice bittersweet feel to
the movement. The second movement starts off in a sad, ruminative,
and surprisingly aloof and cold way. The end of the movement builds
up with expectation for the friends return, and when it happens,
the third movement is exultant and thrilling, with more of Backhaus
fast and strong playing and what sounds to be genuine happiness. He
knocks this one out of the park.
Another eight sonatas down, and, if anything, my opinion of Mr
Backhaus has only improved. What will the late sonatas bring?
[Now for the late sonatas, I sharply disagree with the assessments here
and regard Backhaus's performances as among the great glories of the set
and of any set. It is true that they do not grab you immediately, but it
can take repeated playing to get into his specific style. After one grasps
that style, one can see it fully at work in the late sonatas. It's just
that it is not apparent at once. The stereo remake of No. 31 is especially
good, as I noticed with Nos. 4 and 25. Happily, the three comprised, in
its original issue on London, a single disk. Try to find it and then
you'll try to find the entire set!]
28. Time for the late sonatas. Surely, given the quality of the cycle
thus far, Backhaus should be irreproachable in the late works. It
aint so. That doesnt seem evident with the Op 90 sonata, though.
This one shows those Backhaus traits that so often inform the
earlier sonatas: he prefers swift tempi overall; he plays in a less
than ideally lyrical way; he plays with fine articulation and
strength; he makes the music exciting. Yep, thats some good stuff.
The second movement does sound more lyrical and offers a more
variegated color palette, though even here Backhaus brings some
incisive playing in a few places where many dont. While not one of
my top choices, this is excellent.
29. The same holds true for the Op 101 sonata. The opening is again
fast and a bit ungraceful. It doesnt really stir ones soul or
imagination, though; its not especially deep. The second movement
continues in the very good but not ideal vein with a nice if clunky
march. The third movement, though, shows the first hints of what
plagues some of the later sonatas there is an ascetic, stripped
down, rather cold feeling to the music making. Its neither
intellectually or emotionally enriching enough; Backhaus gives the
impression of merely spinning notes at times. The work improves
with a quick, peculiarly upbeat final movement possessing the
energy of some earlier sonatas, the slow coda notwithstanding. This
is a good rendition of the work, but theres something missing.
That isnt as much a problem with the Hammerklavier. I came to this
recording with extremely high expectations. Ive read and heard
praise for this, with claims that it is among the best recordings
of this work perhaps even the best. I cant say that Im that
enthusiastic about it. The problem comes in the first two
movements. Backhaus takes tempi slower than I tend to favor. (He
dont use no whipcrack, Gulda-like approach.) And while hes not a
slouch technically, he lacks the ideal degree of mastery of the
piece. Hes certainly no Pollini. But even ignoring other pianists
something essentially impossible to do it seems too stiff and
contrived at times. Yes, he does imbue the movements with some
genuine excitement at times, and he speeds up appreciably in some
sections, but its not quite what Id hoped for. The Adagio, on the
other hand, is quite simply one of the greatest Ive heard. I admit
that this movement can sound a bit too long in some recordings, but
Backhaus nearly suspends time and plays with a desolate and
searching feeling and creates a sense of inevitability, if you
will; everything that he plays can sound that way and only that
way. It is amazing. Scarcely less impressive is the finale. The
Largo is nice if perhaps a bit impatient Backhaus evidently wants
at that fugue. When he gets there he delivers. It is relentlessly
driven and possessed of a, well, possessed intensity and
seriousness that not even patches of less than perfect clarity can
mar. Yessir, this heres a good final movement. But, as with all of
Ludwig vans sonatas, one must consider the whole, and there
Backhaus does fall short of the very best.
[The comments on the last three are disappointingly brief.]
30. The real problems with the late sonatas are to be found in the last
three. The Op 109 encompasses most of what is wrong with them. He
plays too quickly and the work sounds downright disjointed at
times. His phrasing can be odd. At times he plays with seeming
disdain for whats written. Very little if anything can be called
beautiful. (In this work, only the first variation in the final
movement falls into that category.) There is not much if anything
that can be called transcendent or spiritual or philosophical here.
31-32. In the Op 110 a feeling that Backhaus just doesnt connect with the
piece enters into the picture. In the last sonata he adds a glossed
over feeling. Everything is basically too fast and not strongly
characterized; the opening never sounds ominous or especially dark,
the Arietta is ascetic and almost unpleasant. Yet. Yet these
sonatas arent disasters. Theres no doubt that they arent top
contenders, but they do work as dismissive, almost disdainful
alternative approaches. I just cant see myself spinning them too
often.
Even with the relatively disappointing late sonatas especially the
last three Backhaus mono cycle must be considered one of the
greats. So much of what he does sounds so right that its hard to
find serious fault with his playing. Gripes are mostly minor;
praise is largely unnecessary. This is a monumental cycle and one
that wish I would have heard earlier. Better late than never, I
guess.
Toddy
2006-05-24 01:33:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by g***@gmail.com
My apologies, but Mr. Todd does not appear to have the requisite
experience to be able to review Backhaus' set with any kind of
authority.
Heavens. Your post illustrates the danger of reading things out of
their proper context. This Backhaus "review" (or whatever you prefer
to term it), while it can stand alone, is part of a larger series of
reviews that will hopefully one day encompass most modern (ie, non
fortepiano) cycles. My point in describing Backhaus' style in the
first sonata is to establish what he sounds like, which is obviously
covered again later. I've never stated anywhere that the F minor is
a charming work, though some pianists do introduce some flashes of
charm or at least youthful exuberance into the playing. And I will
agree that my review isn't authoritative in any way. It is not meant
to be. It is merely a description of my impressions upon first
listening to this cycle. Without knowing what came before this cycle,
or after, you are missing part of the point.
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