Friday, January 12, 2018

How Two Words Describe the Powers of Two Piano Giants in Their Early Careers...

The words are 'belie,'  and  'idiosyncratic.'
The two giants are Vladimir Horowitz and Leif Ove Andsnes.
The following events are recollections, and, of course, are my reactions to the events; not an imposition of any opinions on my part:
Also; this is not in  any way  a  comparison of these two artists -
The world of serious music has long known of the 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninoff. For the better part of a century, this massive and defining  masterpiece has been performed and recorded with the attendant aura of regard and respect that it deserves, by a host of great pianists  having spent many hours dealing with the ways to assemble this legendary knuckle-buster,  and make their vital contributions to the history of one of the most important Concertos  in the literature.
Vladimir Horowitz was not yet thirty when he recorded the Concerto for the first time in England, and of all of the myriad of recordings, his attachment to the text still remains for many, arguably, the most compelling reading among the great recordings available.
Here, the word 'belies' the youth of Horowitz, in that it seems as if he had been living with the music for far longer than his less-than-thirty-year life span at the time of the recording. The word 'idiosyncratic' also applies, in that Horowitz had, for me,  pierced the core of the text as a form of eclectic reaction to an association with the music  for a half century, seemingly,  rather than less than a third.
To place into an even clearer context, I am more impressed with the first recording by Horowitz, than with the ensuing recordings he made of the work  over the remaining 50-odd years of  an unprecedented career.
And now I turn to one of the  true patricians among the great living pianists, the Norwegian virtuoso Leif Ove Andsnes.
About twenty five years ago, my wife was driving her car, listening to a favorite radio station playing, if you please, the Rachmaninoff 3rd Concerto. Evidently the power of the message by the pianist reached out and forced my wife to pull over to the side of the road in order to better grasp the message she was being given. She was simply  taken over, and, as she recalled, she sat and listened to the remainder of the work. Fortunately, the announcer gave the name of the performer. It was Leif Ove Andsnes, then about 22 or 23 years of age, in a Norwegian recording just having been released.
"You MUST get this recording," were her first words to me upon returning home. Which I did the next day.
I found myself writing to Andsnes, informing him that my senses asserted  that, for me,  his reading was the most  compelling  and important  representation  of the Concerto by a pianist under the age of thirty since the Horowitz recording.
And he replied by stating that no such placement, historically, had entered his thinking, and was interested in knowing my reasons, which began an exchange of letters ending with my  meeting the man several times and exchanging E-mails for about 15 years thereafter. My meeting him was facilitated by the Spanish violinist Ricardo Odriozola, for which I am forever thankful.
Again; and for the same reasons I attached above to the Horowitz event, the words 'belie' and 'idiosyncratic' apply.
And,  once again; for me, the power of message that Andsnes transmits in this early recording,  such as the young Horowitz did and does in his earliest  recording of the Concerto, is indeed a rare and defining event.
Why?
Then again; how is it that Mendelssohn scrawled out his first  Midsummer Night's  Dream -  at age 17?
Or, - just listen to Mozart's K. 1-5, all written, quite possibly,  before he could write his own name; at age 5...
Or - Gershwin, at age 19; writing a song we still hear; namely, Swanee,  at age 19? In about 10 minutes?
All the answers served up to me are, at best, speculative...

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