John Smyth wrote:
>> ... and, of course, he's Russian, which brings me back to my
>> original point in that I do vehemently believe that they are more
>> contemplative than most other musicians.
>When you get a chance, you might want to take a listen to Rachmaninoff's
>own performances of his Piano Concerto with Ormandy and Stokowski on RCA
>... What bowled me over was the detachment of the piano playing--no
>tearing apart of the soul, no looking into the abyss, etc. Rachmaninoff's
>playing was crisp, clear, "unaffectated," no lolligagging around with
>excessive ritards, and...he makes clunkers!!! Rachmaninoff makes mistakes!
I know these recordings very well. I could hardly consider Rachmaninov
my favourite composer if I didn't!
John Smyth's observations of Rachmaninov's playing are both true and
pertinent to my initial point. With Rachmaninov, there is no excess.
None is necessary. The music is so well written that when properly
excecuted - without affect, but rather with sincerity, clarity, and a
great understanding and range of sound - it sings by itself. Rachmaninov
was meticulous about notation, so much so that everything intended is
indicated in his scores and no excess is necessary.
There's nothing worse than sappy Rachmaninov. He was not a man of
such temperament. Nostalgic, certainly, and reportedly morbidly so,
but never sappy. This is how I feel about most Russian musicians.
There is a stoicism inherent in their nature which, to me at least,
resounds more sincerely and with greater integrity than any run of the
mill showman gyrating off the piano, or any, bench. Rachmaninov was
so gifted a weaver of endless melody that to hear and be able to 'sing'
his melodic and counter-melodic lines is to do his music justice. In
contraposition to Liszt's writing, there is no artifice. Incredible
pianism, indeed, but never false artifice. This is also the reason for
which there are many contemporary pianists for whom I simply do not care.
Don Satz then wrote in response to the below submitted by me:
>> Before we hastily point 'I told you so' fingers at me, we all know
>> that Sokolov is an exceptional and extremely rare musician in the
>> truest sense of the term ...
>While I agree with Olivier that Sokolov is a wonderful artist and his
>Diabelli Variations recording one of the best on record, the "we all
>know" he's exceptional assumption is far from accurate. There are
>plenty of folks who do not share this assessment and even more who
>don't know that Sokolov exists.
In deference to Don Satz, I will concede that the universal "we all know"
may have been a bit presumptuous. It's a shame too. As for those who
do not share my assessment of Sokolov's genius, we clearly have inexorably
diverging conceptions of what piano playing is, and no debate is possible.
You haven't heard Chopin until you've heard it performed by Sokolov!
I've had the honour and pleasure of hearing perform and meeting Mr.
Sokolov on several occasions and I can assure you that each is an awe
inspiring epiphany. In my most honest opinion, he is the greatest pianist
>As for Olivier's view that Russian pianists display greater artistry
>than pianists from other countries, I think it's best not to make such
>proclamations and simply approach every professional pianist on an
Agreed, and, again, I never proclaimed any Russian hegemony, but was
merely making a generalized observation. There are many other pianists
I adore: Argerich, Freire, Zimerman, Roge, Goode, just to name a few.
I am an equal opportunity audiophile...
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