Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Beethoven's Music; a Smoke-Filled Room - a Romance? Not Necessarily...

Recently I went over a film clip of Artur Rubinstein, then in his nineties, thoroughly enjoying his newly acquired retirement, somewhere in Mexico. There he sat, at a small outdoor table with a cup of coffee, wearing a sombrero and an  equally broad smile. No longer the performer, but an ongoing possessor of Love of Life, no  exceptions  allowed. As I gazed at this incredible man thoroughly immersed in his personal Chapter Two, I recalled seeing, years ago, a photograph of Rubinstein at the pinnacle of his unparalleled career (probably in his fifties or sixties) seated at a piano, wearing a tuxedo as if  being photographed during a recital, with a cigar jutting out of his mouth  in profile, at an upward angle reminding me of Franklin  Roosevelt in a lighter moment. What a guy!
Which brought back to me an event during my student days in Europe.
I recall reading a story written by some English musicological  writer  named Bachrach; a story which may or may not be an intrinsic sector of Truth in History; however, it's such a unique twist in the tale of Beethoven Performances, and, after all, this story was in print(I read it!), I thought that you might enjoy its contents; therefore:
Early nineteenth century. Scheduled, one of the earlier Beethoven Concerti(I cannot recall which).
Beethoven, still a possessor of much of his hearing, was in the audience.
The pianist  (no name comes to me) comes out on stage, bows, and seats himself before the keyboard. The music begins. Then it becomes uncomfortably evident that the  performer has a cigar emerging from his mouth, with smoke curling upward. Probably in his state of nervousness (after all, the Master himself is in the audience!)he had forgotten to extract the cigar from his probably perspiring  physiognomy. By the end of the first movement, a pall of smoke had been formed above the piano area. Before the second movement began, the cigar had been removed, and the remainder of the Concerto was given to history in an increasingly clarified atmosphere.
I luridly remember my reaction. as a reader of this musicological gem of unswerving historical non-revisionism; that is:
1. What would Beethoven have been thinking during these golden moments?
2. What would the chances have been for Beethoven to select this particular pianist for  a future Beethoven performance?
I remember asking myself these two pregnant questions, followed by
WHAT am I reading??
Indeed, this tale is in print somewhere -  the author is Bachrach, someone well-known in Britain, at least during my period of study.
I'd prefer not to divulge to you how many years ago...

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