Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A "Wishlist" of Musical Performances for the Holidays...

Not having done this for the past few years on this blog, I thought that I should give, at long last, some of you a handful of suggestions for Holiday gifts for music lovers among friends or family:

Music for Unaccompanied Violin by Bach - Performed by Jascha Heifetz
History labels Heifetz, generally, as the dominant violinist of the twentieth century, what with his unparalleled technique and  the inimitable essence of language he possessed. The bowing techniques he exhibited as well  were brilliantly demonstrated in these masterpieces by the legendary German composer.

The Mazurkas - Performed by Artur Rubinstein
The little gems by Chopin were recorded more than once by Rubinstein; so, do look for the last of his recordings of this form.
Chopin himself, more than once, remarked that composing  the Mazurkas was his favorite pursuit as a composer, and he was unconditionally attached to this form. Some of his most powerful  examples of compositional technique appear in a handful of these pieces, which, seemingly, may lend credence to his
embrace of the Mazurka as a form of poesy within the circle of his greatness, as one of the giants of 19th century creative entities.

The Preludes of Debussy - Performed by Walter Gieseking
Gieseking, who tends not to be heard these days, exhibited an uncanny power to extract different sounds out of the piano key, which results in recordings, if they are revivified technologically, that defy description.
Do see if you can obtain his recordings of the Impressionistic period that have been re-mastered, and you will hear a pianist who was, in my estimation, able to move further away from any of his contemporaries,  from the reminder that the piano is, after all, a member of the Percussion family. I heard him live just one time, and I shall never forget the magic of a sound like no other player of the piano.

Brahms Concerto in "B" flat - Performed by Vladimir Horowitz
Remarkable indeed is the reality that the legend Horowitz, more than once, stated that he did not especially like performing Brahms. It seems that the great pianist felt 'uncomfortable'  performing the composer's music  in public, and said as much.
And yet; the power of Brahms is, for me,  at its greatest, in this overwhelming reading recorded in the early '40's with his father-in-law Toscanini. Personally, I cannot fathom the music of Brahms being portrayed more beautifully than in this recording.

The  Concertos of  Beethoven(the first four) - Performed by Leif Ove Andsnes
These are recent recordings by the Norwegian pianist, and are a revelation to me.
I have heard these compositions veritably all my life, and have, of course, some degree of familiarity in connection with the sense of Victory that Beethoven established over personal tragedy, as so many of the history books tell and re-tell about this composer.
However, it appears to me that Andsnes captures not so much the meaning of 'victory' as it pertains to the composer, but rather an astonishingly lucid   view of pure positivism that Beethoven truly demonstrates in his language.
From the Heiligenstadt  Letter in 1802 to his final breath in 1827, Beethoven's true core of personal Victory is given us in this  reading of  the Concerti by Andsnes.

My next "wishlist" will deal with pop music...



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