Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"A Beethoven Journey" - Some Thoughts and Reaction...

During a  golden period of some fifteen years, I was given the opportunity to experience countless conversations by traditional mail, E-mail, and a number of meetings with the esteemed Norwegian pianist, Leif Ove Andsnes.
Of these golden moments, besides the genuine warmth and grace that this man always projected, the most singular aspect that I gleaned from him was the experience of "hearing for the first time" music I had been familiar with for much of my professional life.
After his release of  an album of Liszt piano music, I wrote to him about the unique experience of receiving a message from the composer I had never contemplated (and  be assured that I find this really quite impossible to convey in words); that is, with the traditional reminders of the enormous technique always in attendance in the playing of Liszt, I became aware that Andsnes was able to make the music appear veritably separated from the physicality which one would normally attach to the Liszt experience - it was if the music simply appeared in a mode of purity somehow removed from the technique which is and always has been  the means of carrying the message. It, for me, simply appeared for the sake of its own existence, without any trace of the visceral thrills one associates with Liszt - the music simply was a form suspended in front of my consciousness.
And this occurs every time I listen to this album.
What comes to mind is a moment when I remarked to him that when I hear his playing of music of the Romantic period, I hear a kind of beauty linked, at the same time, with almost no sentiment attached to the idea promulgated - how can this be? I brought this up to him during one of our times together -  I recall that he said nothing - he only smiled, and we went on to another subject.
Was his smile a certification of "yes, that's exactly how I look at this kind of music. I'm so happy that you too experience my particular imagery" - or was his smile simply the only way he could react to my statement, as it was as much a mystery to him as well as to his listener?
In his recent project  "A Beethoven Journey"  the first thing that came to me was a question I had which I never did ask; namely,  why Beethoven was not in attendance in his performances, so far as I can remember, when I first met him when he was about 28.
Well, now the world knows, as he states that he just "wasn't ready" - and now, in his mid-forties, he gives us his stance on the music of the man who once uttered "it is they who should  bow to us" - perhaps as powerful a statement that any Child of the Enlightenment, especially an artist,  could project about a view of the prevailing powers of royalty and wealth/power.
For me, Andsnes might well have been searching for a way to better focus on the core values of Beethoven, usually described in terms of 'victory over travail' which have been written about since  the middle of the 19th century, as it pertains to the composer.
What I perceive from  Andsnes, in his performances we now are given, is an aura, for me, of a kind of positivism that moves one step beyond the personal victory over the travail of total deafness and  a kind of isolation that was so much a part of Beethoven's last quarter century. For me, this is the appearance of  an indescribable form of personal victory that puts a stamp on the kind of 'victory'
that we have understood for almost two centuries.
Andsnes, for me, has found a way of  placing  a positivistic umbrella over that Final Victory.

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