Thursday, August 20, 2009

Personal Confrontation With Music of Western Europe - Ashkenazy and Gilels

About twenty years ago, the great Russian virtuoso, Vladimir Ashkenazy, gave a recital/interview from his home which I have (a video), and he not only performs his usual magic, but also discusses his own private war with the music from the West; chiefly German.
The insularity in both Czarist and Communist Russia existed for such a lengthy period of time, with the only truly viable "window to the west" being St. Petersburg for a considerable period, there was a time when Russian musicians had to construct a kind of 'learning mode' to deal with the interpretive issues endemic to the masters from Western Europe.
In the case of the Russian pianists, people in our time, such as Ashkenazy and Emil Gilels confronted the issue of how to "architecturalize" the Germanic statements of the likes of Bach and Beethoven. Forerunners such as Rachmaninoff had already dealt with this problem, but there is very little known about Rachmaninoff's personal viewpoints about this issue.
Ashkenazy DOES discuss, in this interview, and at quite some length, his personal dealings with the works of Beethoven and Mozart, and it is apparent to me that he spent years searching for the true meaning of the intellectual, let alone artistic aims of the great German masters.
I would assume that Gilels did much the same, as, such as with the recordings of Ashkenazy, the music of Gilels demonstrate exquisite readings of both Mozart and Beethoven.
I bring this up only because this issue may not be thought much about; however, with the manner in which Russian musicians were insulated by their own discoveries of the genius germane to their own culture, the door to the West HAD to be, in my view, an issue of elemental import, as an eventuality.

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