Well, Gould's understanding of Webern was, I think, quite limited. He had a very traditional view of him - i.e. as a mathematical, emotionless composer. But to be fair, you have to remember that Webern was virtually unknown when Gould first encountered his music in the 50s, and yet he still played the Variations at his American debut concert and on his Russian tour, a very audacious thing to do.
Oh yes, you are absolutely right about that.
There were of course people like Stadlen who had had direct access to the tradition, but I think due to the (Darmstadt) serialists the view was exactly as you put it: mathematical and emotionless. It took a long time to break that view, although some scholars - eg. Westergaard - released opposing articles as early as in the 60's. Though the picture still persists to some extent: when I was in gymnasium - which wasn't many years ago - my music teacher still referred to Webern's music by saying: "How one should listen to this? 'Oh there's a good row?' "
What does best pianist for a composer mean? This, I think...
It is the pianist who you constantly return to because you hear the voice of the composer in an unmediated way.
There is only one composer who I think has a clear one-to-one relationship with his interpreter: Chopin, with his interpreter Rubinstein. I've never heard a pianist who's recorded the Ballades to excel the understanding of Rubinstein (least of all, Perahia). Malcuzynski (I'm glad to see that someone remembers him) was quite wonderful with Chopin, sonatas and mazurkas and much else, indeed.
I agree with the poster who said that Richter had a deeper understanding of more composers than any other pianist of modern times. He is perhaps the only master who really played for himself, rather than his audience. The audience was permitted to be there at his re-enactment of the composer's own performance. That's why he stopped recording and preferred selected tapings of his live performances. In this way, he was a kinsman to the great conductor Celibidache.
i have reservations about pianists who were the darlings of major record companies but were quite disappointing in the concert hall (Brendel, Pollini, Schiff, Perahia...) This group of recording artists significantly overlapped with those who had semi-permanent residence in London and were favorites of the British critics (add Argerich, Uchida, Demidenko, etc).
I'm less skeptical of a group of pianists who seem to play for the music itself and bring great naturalness to their playing (Andsnes, Pires, Ohlsson, etc, and in the past, Moravec).
On the other hand, some pianists make splendid recordings but have feet of clay in the concert hall (Goode, Lifschitz, etc).
I have difficulty with pianists who I think are over the wrong edge in terms of technical facility (Arrau) or play at 60 like watered down versions of how they played at 20 (no artistic development over a lifetime; Argerich is the major example) or distort the meter and pulse of the music with constant agogic emphasis and adjustments (Pletnev).
Finally, there are pianists whose recordings are awful, just as they are in the concert hall (Hamelin; his Haydn sonatas may be possibly the least musical in recorded history).
Of the Chinese pianists who are so promising now, Yuja Wang shows a real personality to accompany the very individually articulated technical strengths.
Last edited by JimC; Oct-27-2011 at 05:30.
Reason: correct the grammar
JimC couldnt disagree more about Schiff, Brendel, Perahia in the concert hall - but would agree about Pollini. I found him disappointing recently in Vienna and way past his use-by date, sadly. I went to a lecture this year by Brendel as the Musikverein and he´s the consummate polymath who knows a lot about music and communicates very well both speaking and playing. Of course, he has retired now. I was disappointed when I heard Yefim Bronfman at the Musikverein, but everyone else lived up to expectations.
Liszt: Tough one because Leslie Howard did the entire catalog (only one to do it...and he does ti well). Whereas Argerich recorded just one piece and it is the almighty staple of Liszt piano. Bolet is my overall pick for Liszt though.
Chopin: Rubinstein plays Chopin with extreme naturalness. His Nocturnes are unsurpassed. Zimerman is a fine Chopin interpreter as well, but I have to give the nod to Rubistein. Argerich, too is up there.
Schubert: Perahia, Richter and Lupu, but I give Richter the prize
Bach: I give Perahia the prize here though Hewitt's cycle was wonderful. Gould is too strange for me to accept as ultimate. I don't think Bach would have preferred Gould. Hantai's Goldberg's for Harpsichord is still the best ever recorded I think. Just wait till Perahia takes on the WTC
Beethoven: Arrau had something really special with Beethoven, but so many do and its impossible to pick just one. I really like Kovacevich in the concertos, but Arrau was the most consistent Beethoven interpreter and even his Piano Concerto 4 is the best
Mozart It's a tossup for me between Uchida and Pires, though Badura-Skoda did some very nice things with the period piano. I choose Uchida because I prefer her Concertos and she did the whole cycle, though her recent 24th is among the best. Brendel is very good in the concertos though and ultimately would get my concerto pick while Uchida would get my Sonata pick
Brahms: Lupu overall here in the solo piano works, but Gilels in both concertos. PS, I own every recording on CD of both piano concertos.
Rachmaninov Split between Richter and Horowitz
Schumann: Split between Richter, Perahia and Argerich...Perahia wins
Debussy: I love these: Michelangeli, Jacobs and Bavouzet, but Michelangeli wins
Ravelin the concerto....Michelangeli, in the piano works... maybe Bavouzet even though Hewitt's is great
The only Schumann interpreter I can recall not liking much was Pollini doing the Fantasy Op 17. I thought it was pretty lifeless.
Since everybody else has pleased me most of the time, I'll opt for Claudio Arrau, who was my intro to the Schumann piano music and whose set of Schumann works on Philips boasted some of my favorite LP art of all time.
For Joaquin Rodrigo I like Gregory Allen. His recordings of Rodrigo's complete Piano music are amongst my favorite CD's in my collection. Its also nice to know his interpretations got the stamp of approval by the composer himself.
"Gregory Allen's Recording of my works for piano is excellent. His magnificent technique and his authentically fine interpretation satisfy me completely."
-Joaquin Rodrigo, Madrid, 1991
Just to name a few. That's a personal opinion, based on experience, concerts, recordings. Nothing perfect and I miss a good few. I recently listened to Argerich live in Bach 2º Partita. That was amazing!...
Gould is too strange for me to accept as ultimate. I don't think Bach would have preferred Gould.
You know, what really is 'strange' is that just about everything on your list was on point and in good taste and quite true...but giving Bach to Murray? I mean,...that is what I call 'strange' and, oh...so many other things I can not say. At least you point out that it is too much for you to accept because this is, indeed, your problem. Perhaps you can not accept greatness and perfection but then I think of your list and you do like it...perhaps, Bach is something you've yet to fully understand.
As far as Bach not liking Glenn...not only are they both up there together but J.S. is at Bog's side watching and enjoying as Mr. Gould sits at his cd318 in the sky with his crackly chair and fills the heavens with the music of Bach, played as it was meant to be played. The heavens bother not listening to any other mere mortal as they know who they sent us and he is back with them...they both are.