Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mundane Musings of a Muddled Musician...

"The jury is out" - this is the status of a rather bewildering phase of my consciousness  these days:
As a musician, I find myself at a loss about the status and nature of what we call Greatness, as I listen to the leading pianists of the present period.
With the exception of the Israeli-Argentine pianist Daniel Barenboim and the  Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, whom I have  long considered   great musicians who happened to have chosen the piano to prove their  point, I have attained a position of a new form of confusion, as it pertains to my senses when I confront the other pianists whom I listen to almost daily.
There is no question as to the stature of the keyboard techniques the eminent pianists of our day possess.  For me, I am witness to the playing of the piano at the highest level of brilliance I have ever heard. These pianists  have achieved dizzying powers of performance that may well be unprecedented.  When I hear or see teenagers plow with relative ease through a number of the Horowitz transcriptions; or, pianist after pianist virtually incapable of playing a wrong note while whittling one of the last three Beethoven sonatas down to a new size - when I watch Juja Wang dispatch the Prokoviev Toccata as if  she  were cavorting through  a Clementi Sonatina - when I take note of pianists in increasingly large numbers showing such little effort in handling the most challenging knuckle-busters in the piano lexicon, then I realize just how far the technology of pedagogy has traveled this past generation.
Which leads to the issue confronting my senses today - has the very nature of  what is defined as 'greatness' in playing altered in some arcane manner because of the stultifying levels of technical achievement in our time? Or is it merely that I find it difficult to peer past this blinding technology  in order to behold that Thing called 'Great?'
I have no problem whatsoever in perceiving the absolutely wonderful level of beauty and liquescence (when demanded) made available by the leading pianists; the quality of tonal beauty is there for me to hear - the problem is when I listen to such keyboard giants as Hamelin and Trifonov I hear aspects of their total that I consider great, but I find myself stopping short of simply terming them as 'great.'
Why?
Is it that the gigantism of physicality in keyboard technique is obfuscating my being able to define  greatness in that performance?
For me, the jury is out at this point in time, in spite of the  transcendent level achieved in the playing of that particular piece.
My hope is that there will appear a way for that synthesis to be presented; and, soon...

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