Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Pianist Jose Iturbi -A Wildly Famous Enigma...

Jose Iturbi was, and remains for me, a puzzle whose parts have always remained impossible to 'glue'  into the correct place.
This personal dilemma,  be assured, has  nothing whatsoever   to do with the few lessons I experienced with him.
 The parts of his puzzle, strewn in various directions, veritably like flotsam and jetsam bobbing on a restless body of water, are as follows:
He loved, owned and drove motorcycles.
He played boogie- woogie  as accompanist to Judy Garland in one of the movies he made for MGM.
For a brief period, there was discussion about his assuming a serious role as an actor in movies; an event which never took place.
He performed with and was an acquaintance with many of the great musicians of the period.
He was considered one of the great pianists by many critics.
His knowledge of music, as both a harpsichordist and pianist, was world recognized.
He was also a conductor, and at one time considered it as a prime activity to follow.
He loved playing the piano in concerti, while sitting and conducting at the same time. I saw him do it  in  the Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue.
O.K. in the  Rhapsody, but try doing this in the Tchaikowsky,  which he did. Not quite so  successful, as it turned out to be.
Iturbi possessed the greatest level of Keyboard Location that I know of - even Horowitz, I believe, could not equal  that aspect. Iturbi could look away from the keyboard while playing some of the most difficult passages from the literature. He even talked calmly, as if he were smoking a pipe, to others, while his fingers accomplished the playing of fiendishly difficult  cascades  of notes from  Liszt, Chopin etc.
There is no question among historians and witnesses  pertaining to  his legendary status as a player of the piano.
But the music...
At times, he brought the language into being; and during those periods, he was stupefying.
Sadly, these times were few and far between.
The puzzle never came together, for me...



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