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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Inventions, Part 3

From:

Donald Satz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 28 Mar 2000 23:23:00 PST

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (78 lines)

Three Part Inventions in C major and C minor - The C major invention
is a deeply joyous and happy piece.  One of the things I like best about
the joy expressed in Bach's keyboard music is how "internal" it is:  no
screaming, no superficial business, no exaggerated emotional displays -
just pure inner joy.  The C major along with the two part E major invention
are two of my favorite pieces from the Inventions.  The tempos used can
vary quite a bit, but the joy and forward momentum are a must for a
successful performance.  Schiff, Gould, and Suzuki are partially
successful.  Schiff engages in little hesitations and his joy is subdued.
Gould is very fast, and although it does hold together and offers a
visceral element, it ultimately gets tiresome on repeated listenings.
Suzuki lacks a little joy.

The other versions are great.  When I started listening to Koopman, the
relatively frequent trills he was playing were bothersome; but, it didn't
take long for me to feel that his version conveyed more pure joy than any
other.  Laberge finally gets it all together with pacing and emotion, and
again, the harpsichord sounds so good.  Serkin delivers the most beautiful
performance of the group.  Kahane gives the best balanced performance,
absolutely nothing to even nit-pick over.  Hewitt's is the most exciting
interpretation; she's fast, but always in control and her poetry is at a
high level.

The C minor invention is a bitter-sweet piece with emotions swaying up
and down and an infectious swagger.  But if played slowly (well over 2
minutes), the potential exists for an interpretation of greater depth.
Only Schiff's version does not provide much depth or swagger; his annoying
hesitations are becoming debilitating.  The others are all excellent.
Suzuki and Gould take the piece very slowly and provide a wealth of
emotional depth.  Hewitt's has the perfect swagger.

Three Part Inventions in D major and D minor - The D major can look, at
first glance, like a happy litle ditty.  Of course, it's much more that
that.  Listening to this piece floods me with memories of great times on
the ocean beach as a youngster where I had one fantastic day after another
swimming, digging clams, clowning around with friends, and soaking up the
female population.  Among the piano versions, four are outstanding and
one is not good.  That one is Schiff, and I'm not surprised anymore to be
writing this.  Schiff doesn't transform the music into a little ditty, but
he comes close.  Then, at 45 seconds into the piece, he really screws it
up; without going into details, it sounds as if a totally different and
much less skilled pianist takes over for Schiff.  Forget him!  Kahane is
fantastic - he is slow but so effective.  His flow is superb, and the music
just sways through my head.  Hewitt is great too; she's fairly fast, fully
idiomatic, and gives the most exciting performance of the D major.  It took
me a couple of listenings to fully appreciate Serkin, but it kicked in with
Serkin having the most infectious swagger to the music.  And then there's
Glenn "The Crooner" Gould.  Stay out of his way, because he stops for no
one.  It's like the man is on "speed", but that's fine with me since many
of my ocean days were spent in the same condition.  With this piece, Gould
has a purpose and meaning.  This isn't speed for the hell of it.  The
harpsichord versions are outstanding as well.  Each one has great pacing
with moderate tempos.  These performers must love this music as much as I
do.

The D minor invention is a powerful piece of music.  It usually reminds
me of the movie "Sophie's Choice", where the young mom upon entering the
concentration camp has to make a excruciating choice whether to save her
daughter or son.  The choice is made, and she has to go through life with
an immeasureable weight of guilt and finally kills herself.  I see much of
the C minor as reflecting the relatively peaceful feeling the mother gets
when contemplating the end of her burden.  Concerning the music itself,
there's a strongly emphasized cascading of notes with about 20 seconds
(more like 40 for very slow versions) left in the piece which I consider
one of those supremely "magical moments" in music.  Check it out.  I'm glad
to say that all of the versions are mighty fine with Laberge, Suzuki, and
Kahane in the top echelon, as they get everything just right including that
magical moment.  Serkin and Gould take about three minutes, while the norm
appears to be a little over two minutes.  Gould, unfortunately, is let down
by some significant fluttering in the sound.

I'm definitely noticing that these artists, overall, are doing much better
so far in the three part inventions.  I'll be thinking about this some and
will let you know when I've come to an answer; I might even tell you what
it is.

Don Satz
[log in to unmask]

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