Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Short List of Some of the Most Thrilling Performances on Video

To be sure, there will have been truly thrilling performances by great musicians which are not included in the following list; however, I thought that some of you may like to know of a small number of performances which, from my view, you may be as thrilled, if not overwhelmed by, as I am:
The first that comes to mind is the performance of the Chopin Etude, opus 10, number4, by the legendary Russian pianist, Richter, as seen in the video "Richter - the Enigma".
Richter was a big man, and the piano looks small in front of him. The tempo Richter takes in this playing of the Etude is stupefyingly swift. It does not seem a possibility; and yet, there it is. The interpretive aspect of this piece cannot be measured. I am not equipped with a reason for his playing of the Chopin at such a speed - I can only speculate that perhaps Richter asserted to himself that he could do what others at his level simply would not do; all this without a trace of ego.
Heifetz, perhaps the most powerful violinist of his time, creates utter magic with his playing of a section of Bach's Partita in "E". The bowing and the fluidity of sound are beyond description.
Additionally, Heifetz, in the Auer incarnation of Paganini's most famous Caprice, this with piano accompaniment, tells us of a violinist who dashes off the unparalleled challenges with such a
wide margin of confidence and alacrity, that it defies any attempt at description.
Horowitz, in his performance of the Etude, Opus 8, of Scriabin, becomes so enraptured by his fusion with the power and sound production of this composition, that he veritably surpasses, perhaps, his own expectation within this particular performance - we are fortunate that it happened to be filmed!
In the same recital, the only time that the legendary athleticism of Horowitz is demonstrated on film is represented in his transcription of "Carmen". It is the only time Horowitz, on film, proves to history, that the legend of Horowitz as the Lion of the piano in the 20th century is a truism.
Art Tatum was filmed very little, sadly, but the tune "yesterdays" is taken to a level that none of us could have contemplated. Small wonder that Horowitz openly admired Tatum.
At the Cafe Carlyle in New York, the bass player Brian Torff exhibits a Brobdingnagian technique in his composition "high and inside", accompanied by none other than George Shearing. Torff handles the instrument as if it were the size of a violin.
Finally (for now!), the last three sonatas of Beethoven are played by Serkin with such a sense of inner spirit, that it seems as if it were the composer himself at the instrument, with the world around him a cosmos of silence, but the sounds from within a language which cannot be followed by any successor. Serkin is so immersed in the building of the material that he, like the composer, can hear nothing but the language coming from the very nucleus of the spirit of creator; nothing less.
If one really makes the attempt, I feel confident that most, if not all of the above can be obtained from various sources.



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