Friday, May 25, 2018

The Lesser Known Side of a Great Pianist...

During my childhood period, two of my heroes of the piano were Artur Rubinstein and Alexander Brailowsky. Rubinstein, of course, is so well-remembered for his unparalleled performances of Chopin. His singular attraction to the great composer was most assuredly enhanced by way of his performing Chopin for a period twice the length of the composer's life span. Many still consider Rubinstein's Chopin his greatest attainment.
Alexander Brailowsky, along with Rubinstein, was known internationally as one of the world's great Chopin players. Some considered Brailowsky to stand beside Rubinstein as 'that other great Chopin player.'   Brailowsky was the first artist to perform the entire Chopin lexicon many times over during his career.
I recall a consideration by various critics and musicians that Brailowsky might well have performed Chopin in a  manner similar, perhaps,  to the way that Chopin may have performed his own works, in that  he, like the composer, was not robust physically. We know that Chopin was frail due to lung related complications. Though he was, evidently, a wonderful pianist, he himself more than once ruefully wished that he could perform some of his more powerful passages more like his friend  Liszt. Similarly, Brailowsky was a rather small man, with a slightly bent posture. I remember his physical appearance when I experienced that wonderful encounter with him(see my April 29, 2008 blog).
So; generally, I remember Brailowsky as one who dealt with such wonderful  poesy in his playing of the masters of the 19th century - that molten imagery that he always elicited was his trademark.
But, listen to his recording of the Liszt Totentanz done in the 1940's with the conductor Reiner.
As well-known as he was  for his grace and fluidity, occasionally  that 'other side' of Brailowsky  was divulged to the musical world.  When he decided to do so, he would at times unleash a mammoth physicality we do not usually attach to this man.
Hear for yourself...

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