Friday, August 14, 2015

Franz Liszt and Glenn Gould - - Watershed Decisions in Their Youth...

Franz Liszt may well have been the supreme player of the piano in the 19th century. The veritably 'rock star' reactions in his audiences are legend and  much in evidence, historically,  in the reality of what this man could do sitting in front of an instrument  he could transform into a miniature orchestra. All one has to do is peruse the music he wrote for this instrument.
And at age 36, this man retired abruptly from the concert  stage.
Done was the shouting; the screaming. Done were the purported affairs with various lady members of his audiences; done was the carrying of this man  out of a concert hall on the shoulders of audience members.
Liszt needed to plumb the depths of his gifts; the result being his exploits in composition, conducting and teaching, along with continued performances on the piano.
The results are what history has unveiled to us about one of the giants of the Romantic Century.

Glenn Gould - As a youth living in Rochester, New York, I found myself  positively enthralled by the magical piano performances coming out of live radio in Toronto, which lies on the other side of Lake Ontario from where Rochester is. This young fellow named Gould was just starting out on his fateful  journey, and his riveting views of Bach were already evident to me.
We know of the meteoric career of this musician, and the illimitable promise of a career that was so tragically cut short in his 50th year.
As was his concertizing, by his decision to no longer perform before a live audience during his 31st year.
His reasons?
Far greater numbers could hear his playing by way of recording.
And the other reason created palpable controversy; namely, by way of  electronics, Gould could (HIS words!), "get it just right."
Gone would be, through his decision, the beautiful boundlessness in human art which propels the thinking artist about " it could have been better ." Let us just contemplate, for a moment, the actual possibility, of human Perfection by "getting it just right."
I don't think so. Do please know that, outside of his decision, I was and am a Gould Admirer.
Try to find a TV program done by William F. Buckley on his "Firing  Line" series, in 1985, on the subject of Gould's decision, with a panel consisting of Roselyn Tureck, one of America's great musicians; Schuyler Chapin, who was  a well-known impresario and executive officer in the Metropolitan  Opera; Tim Page, the award-winning critic of the New York Times and other major papers. And witness the consternation among these three. Also you will see a miraculous few minutes of Gould playing a snippet of his piano transcription(!) of the Strauss opera "Elektra" with Gould singing the baritone part in German. His talents were boundless!
Two giants, about a century apart -
What if no such decisions were made?  In what form or manner would we know these two, in our time?


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