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Thread: Favorite Bach pianists.

  1. #46
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    Re Haebler's French Suites, I take back what I just said. They suffer from the usual piano players' problem of making the music sound too sunny and smooth and sweet and agreeable all the time, even in those sombre and tortured gigues. The result is something that's nice and sweet and shallow. like a big piece of Viennese apple strudel. Where's the dark night of the soul? Where's the spikiness and acerbity? This is baroque -- it should be twisted.

    As usual, the gugues are revealing.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Dec-06-2019 at 18:47.

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Haebler's French suites are nice, I agree.

    The thing that gets my goat about all these pianists, or nearly all of them, is their barefaced arrogance in overlaying modern piano effects on Bach's clavichord and harpsichord music. Gilding the lily. This is just a way to draw attention to themselves, a total absence of humility, modesty. And the result for me is that I become distracted by the ****-ing pianism. Haebler is no exception to this. I HATE PIANO PLAYERS.

    But yes, Haebler's French suites are nice. A nice travesty.
    Drawing attention to themselves! Exactly! I don't care so much (as you), but this is one thing I'm concerned with.

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Re Haebler's French Suites, I take back what I just said. They suffer from the usual piano players' problem of making the music sound too sunny and smooth and sweet and agreeable all the time, even in those sombre and tortured gigues. The result is something that's nice and sweet and shallow. like a big piece of Viennese apple strudel. Where's the dark night of the soul? Where's the spikiness and acerbity? This is baroque -- it should be twisted.

    As usual, the gugues are revealing.
    Haebler's Mozart Piano Sonatas have been criticized for a similar reason--their "Dresden China" effect (which is perhaps the German equivalent of "Viennese apple strudel"...). I don't think it's always a fair criticism, at least not on her later Denon set. Though it may be more evident on her earlier Philips Mozart set. It's not that Mozart & Bach didn't suffer, or express darker moments in their music, as they did, but I don't think of either composer as self-indulgent or wallowing in their personal suffering, at least not in the way that Beethoven might be criticized for, or perhaps Schubert, or other Romantic era composers. To my mind, they were more imperturbable. I don't hear their music becoming unhinged or tortured, & for me, that's a core part of their music. So, I don't hear it as "twisted"--but I'll have to listen more carefully to Bach gigues now. Maybe I've missed those elements, or haven't heard them brought out clearly enough by the keyboard players that I've been listening to. Can you suggest a harpsichordist that particularly brings out these more "twisted" or "sombre and tortured" elements in Bach's gigues? I'd like to compare them to what the pianists are doing so that I can better understand what you're talking about...

    With that said, I do recall thinking that the alternative tuning Peter Watchorn used in his recording of the Well-Tempered Clavier Bks 1 & 2--which was done in accordance with scholar Bradley Lehman's theory about Bach's tuning--made the music surprisingly darker to me than I'd ever heard it before. Suddenly, I felt there was more of a crisis in Bach, or at least glimpses of a dark night of the soul than I had encountered before in other recordings. Is that something you'd agree with?

    As for Haebler, I don't think she's draws attention to herself in her playing. I don't see her as an ego driven pianist. Her approach is too classically restrained and chaste for all that. It may not be your idea of Bach, or the Baroque, but I think it works on its own terms.

    I should add that Haebler's French Suites are a recent discovery for me. I haven't lived with them for a long time. So, I don't know what I'll think about them in a year. Plus, I admit to occasionally being guilty of getting overly enthusiastic about a new recording (or a musician that is new to me) at the start & then over time finding that I don't like the recording (or recordings) quite as much as I did on my early impressions.

    WKasimer asks, "One name whose absence I note is Sergey Schepkin. Is that because you haven't heard any of his recordings, or because his playing doesn't appeal to you?"

    I actually bought one or two of Schepkin's recordings about 15 years ago, but it was around the time that I had to move, and as a result I was forced to put them in a storage unit. I recall that I listened to them once in my car, and haven't heard them since. So, I can't really comment about Schepkin's Bach, or recommend or not recommend it. I don't know the recordings well enough. One day I'll retrieve those CDs from my storage locker, and give them a listen. Although I have noted over the years that you think highly of his Bach playing. I'll check to see if they're on You Tube, & if so, have a listen.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-07-2019 at 18:27.

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  5. #49
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    I actually bought one or two of Schepkin's recordings about 15 years ago, but it was around the time that I had to move, and as a result I was forced to put them in a storage unit. I recall that I listened to them once in my car, and haven't heard them since. So, I can't really comment about Schepkin's Bach, or recommend or not recommend it. I don't know the recordings well enough. One day I'll retrieve those CDs from my storage locker, and give them a listen. Although I have noted over the years that you think highly of his Bach playing. I'll check to see if they're on You Tube, & if so, have a listen.
    His fairly recent recordings of the Partitas (his second) and French Suites are on Spotify. He's also recorded the WTC and the Goldberg Variations (the latter twice), although those don't seem to be on streaming services. The earlier Goldberg recording isn't hard to find (it shows up in Boston used CD stores with some frequency, since he's based here), although I think that the later recording, on the Japanese King label, is better.

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    Thanks.

    I see that Schepkin's 6 Partitas are on YT. Is the Steinway & Sons release the second recording that you speak of?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usCL...7Tt5P_&index=1

    His 6 French Suites & Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue are on YT, as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9Uk...7sO9GBlwqCftVU

    & he has a YT 'topic' page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCap...pt-sDqMam5AIHA
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-07-2019 at 17:54.

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    Here's Haebler in the gigue of French Suite 6



    and here's Robert Hill, starting at 14.55



    It's a pity Alan Curtis playing that gigue isn't on there!
    Last edited by Mandryka; Dec-07-2019 at 17:56.

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  10. #52
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post

    I see that Schepkin's 6 Partitas are on YT. Is the Steinway & Sons release the second recording that you speak of?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usCL...7Tt5P_&index=1
    Yes; the earlier set was recorded about twenty years ago.

  11. #53
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    Mandryka--That's an interesting comparison, thanks. I think I understand what you're talking about better. Okay, maybe Haebler does 'sugar coat' things a bit, but I also find a more human aspect to her playing, if that makes sense. The only Bach pianist that I've heard who might play the gigue in a similar way to Robert Hill is Alexis Weissenberg (although I don't recall that he ever recorded the French Suites). However, it might sound a lot more mad on a piano. In Hill's hands, the gigue has a frenetic, improvisational feel to it, with one idea coming so fast on top of another that there's little space to relax between them. That may only work on a harpsichord.

    I've also noticed that Haebler occasionally resorts to the kind of odd staccato effects that Gould favors. I'm not sure that I like that.

    wkasimer--do you favor Schepkin's most recent recordings of the 6 Partitas? I see the 1995 recording is on YT as well, and from what little I've heard of Partita no. 1 the interpretation sounds quite different to his Steinway & Sons recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWoJjlxtVd8
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-07-2019 at 18:24.

  12. #54
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    It's as if Haebler moves the 6th French suite forward in time to Mozart, to classicism. That may not be a bad thing to do!

    Here's Haerbler with the gigue to the first, much darker music, but to my mind this isn't a particularly successful performance, as if she isn't so comfortable with the music. This is just my response now, you understand, nothing more interesting than that.



    Here's one I've never heard before from a guy who's trying to make the piano play counterpoint like a harpsichord. Someone called Fred Thomas -- something to investigate there for me.

    Last edited by Mandryka; Dec-07-2019 at 18:31.

  13. #55
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    Perahia, Hewitt, Xiao-Mei, and Schiff (ECM).

    (I also appreciate Gavrilov, Schepkin, Feltsman, Aldwell, Hill, and Woodward.
    Not Gould! Yuck.)
    Last edited by hoodjem; Dec-08-2019 at 17:49.

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  15. #56
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    Sorry, I cannot stand Gould playing Bach. He plays like an over-caffeinated robot.
    Last edited by hoodjem; Dec-09-2019 at 19:43.

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