Thursday, October 13, 2016

Two Pianists - Tragedy and Triumph...

These two performers come from different aspects within the cosmos of music; one, a jazz pianist - the other, one of the giants in the Classical  pursuit:
I first consulted YouTube to insure that you can see these two perform at their highest level, and I was gratified that both are available.
First(in the event that you are not familiar with this man), picture, if you can, a young man barely three feet in height, who either had to clamber onto the bench, or be bodily lifted onto the bench, especially toward the end of his career. Michel Petrucciani was born with a rare genetic disease that resulted in his having bone structure that would shatter almost a hundred times before he was twenty. His particular form of this disease also resulted in  his not attaining a height of much more than the length of a yardstick. He claimed that he was in constant pain, especially in his arms when in performance. His career, in Europe, then in New York, made him a celebrity during his brief time ( he was, I believe, about 37 when he passed away). His adventures with Duke Ellington's music were, for me, his signature. The Jazz was 'new,' if you will, and a number of you may not approve of this particular form within the Jazz idiom; however, do witness the prowess of this singular musician and experience, with this tragic figure, a unique and defining example of triumph over tragedy.

A large, lumbering man surrounded the piano he sat before, especially during the years of increasing corpulence. His attitude toward the world he resided in became one of increasing indifference or even  a strain of insouciance, as he moved further and further away from a place  he created with his enormous gifts, by way of unforgettable performances throughout the civilized world and especially in his beloved Great Britain, wherein  resided a number of critics who opined that John Ogdon, who passed away in his fifties, may well be the greatest English pianist of them all.
Was it what we now call Bipolar Disorder ? Or Schizophrenia?
I'm not really clear as to what took him away from his immense attainments in the world of performance. I  believe that Ogden was the first pianist after Rachmaninoff himself to actuate  the task of recording all of the piano works of the great Russian, and I believe he had gotten half-way through the project when he shut it down. He was one of the first to record all of the Scriabin sonatas. He also was one of very few who played the almost impossibly difficult piano literature of Alkan - and the list goes on...
Listen to his Beethoven, such as the sonatas opus 106 and 111 - I wrestle, from time to time, with the question "HAVE I ever heard more powerful Beethoven??"
Like Beethoven himself  -  triumph over tragedy.  Great art is always left behind; intact, whether it be after War or some other human catastrophe. 

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