Friday, April 3, 2015

Musical Genius; Some of its 'Mutterings'...

Part of the Human Condition deals with  reactive comments to such issues as competitiveness , probably in innate form, especially among geniuses - if not the issue of competition, then simply, perhaps, an observation by one genius of a particular incarnation by another; for instance:
Upon being part of an audience held spellbound by the performer; namely one Franz Liszt, the great Irish composer John Field turned to his companion and asked "does he bite?"
And what of that 'competitive' aspect?
Take, for example, a statement made by one of the great pianists of his time, Artur Rubinstein. Upon his hearing the emerging young lion from Mother Russia, Vladimir Horowitz,  for the first time(this occurred during a period in Europe before Horowitz came to America), Rubinstein remarked "he is a better pianist than I am; however, I am the better musician."
However,  his reaction to Horowitz may have "hounded" Rubinstein - take some recordings that Rubinstein made in the decade following his statement, which includes a reading of one of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies (the 11th, I believe). It  IS recorded, and is positively riveting in its technical power. I would  challenge almost anyone who is familiar with Rubinstein  as  he is known in our time, to identify Rubinstein as the performer.
Was he making a statement in this recording defying his own appraisal of Horowitz?
One of the other coming giants during this period was the Chilean Claudio Arrau, who became one of the legends that brought the Golden Age of the piano into the 20th century along with Rubinstein, Horowitz and Serkin. During the time that both Arrau and Horowitz  were establishing their notoriety in Europe before coming to America, Arrau's mother went to a Horowitz recital. She went straight to her son and said "he plays better than you . You must work even harder."
The statement that one of the great pianists of his time, Serge Rachmaninoff,  uttered upon hearing the 24 year old Horowitz  play  his 3rd Piano Concerto? "He swallowed my Concerto whole."  And how revealing  it is that Rachmaninoff himself would not play this concerto again until  Eugene  Ormandy, many years later, asked him to record all four Concerti with the Philadelphia Symphony  Orchestra.  Rachmaninoff , after hearing Horowitz, simply had extracted it from his repertoire.
Who remembers Ignace Tiegerman today?
Tiegerman was about seven years older than Horowitz, and like Horowitz and Arrau, was busy establishing his reputation  in Europe. It is, perhaps, rather astonishing to listen to the statements made by Horowitz concerning his sense of placement concerning Tiegerman. Horowitz remarked that "Tiegerman is the only pianist I have  fear of. He may well eclipse me."  The word 'eclipse'  was Horowitz's own choice of description, believe it or not.
There are no commercial recordings. Only  recordings made in studios; or in  friends' apartments or homes, and a few radio broadcast recordings of rather poor quality, in Cairo.
He was born in Poland, ending up in Cairo - can you imagine a Polish Jew founding a conservatoire in Cairo? Having some of the royal family's children as students? Teaching there while Nasser assumes total power in Egypt?
Do read about this man - better yet, listen through the murkiness of the few existing recordings, and ask yourself where this frail little man really stands, in historical reality.



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