During the past year or so, in listening to countless recordings made by contemporary pianists, the reactions I have undergone, in incremental fashion, have resulted in a kind of coruscation; namely, that: First, I am hearing many examples of rather fantastic piano playing - pianists with gargantuan techniques and the powers of shading and plasticity that are positively riveting to my senses. And; Secondly , I am rarely moved emotionally by the sounds being created.
Of course, throughout the years one has heard performers who are virtually incapable of playing a wrong note and at the same time doing nothing with or for the notes that they play so brilliantly.
But there is a factor I cannot yet measure in so much of today's performer. I am consistently "moved" by the totality of mastery in the fingers coupled with a commensurate mastery of wonderful sounds emanating from the piano, but that ONE ultimate 'something' that brings the term 'greatness' into existence is simply not there.
What has come to mind is that there was a period directly after Liszt's unprecedented playing ended that resulted in a kind of quasi-circus of fantastic performers; one after the other, very few of whom have emerged as great musicians. For example, try to get hold of any of the Vorsetzer recordings of Busoni, done during the first decade of the 20th century. It is, of course, known that Busoni was one of the most brilliant pianists of that period - but (for me at least), I find his interpretations rather naive and superficial. It appears that the likes of a Lhevinne or a Rachmaninoff emerged to re-position the priority of that indescribable 'integrity' that only the true artist can fuse to the music, which results in what we call "greatness."
Invariably, when I move back in time to a Rubinstein, or a Lipatti, or a Serkin or Arrau performance, I am immediately transported into their cosmos.
So! A mystery?? I am in the middle of a space that has yet be turned into an argument - or an assertion - or anything else I can measure into some identifiable!
Am I simply hearing elemental changes along the road of history that, very simply, are reflections of the realities of a period I cannot comprehend, having come from another generation?
Or is this another "post-Lisztian" period, which will, one day, be measured as such?
A statement made by one of the truly great pianists of our time, Leif Ove Andsnes, was, perhaps, in the form of a complaint; when he remarked that so many of the young pianists today are not listening, or listening enough, to pianists of the preceding generations -
Is THAT what I'm trying to say?
I just do not know...
Labels: the mystery of "greatness"