View Poll Results: Who was the greatest pianist?

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  • Vladimir Horowitz

    9 9.18%
  • Sviatoslav Richter

    29 29.59%
  • Emil Gilels

    7 7.14%
  • Artur Rubinstein

    5 5.10%
  • Artur Schnabel

    1 1.02%
  • Sergei Rachmaninoff

    8 8.16%
  • Claudio Arrau

    6 6.12%
  • Glenn Gould

    6 6.12%
  • Alfred Brendel

    3 3.06%
  • Edwin Fischer

    0 0%
  • Josef Hofmann

    0 0%
  • Alfred Cortot

    2 2.04%
  • Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

    4 4.08%
  • Martha Argerich

    7 7.14%
  • Other

    11 11.22%
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Thread: Greatest pianist?

  1. #106
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I don’t hear the later recordings as being consistently fresher, more poetic, lively, colorful or intense. On the contrary in a way (compare the first davidsbundlertanze with the second, the first Debussy preludes with the second, think of the early Liszt sonata . . .) On the whole I see Cortot as a really consistent pianist, without major differences in approach throughout his career. I could be wrong about all of this, it’s a while since I’ve listened attentively to any c19 piano music, let alone Cortot doing it!

    I think the big deal about the late recordings, the ones from the 1950s, is the sound, you can hear for the first time what sort of tone he made. That makes them very special (eg Symphonic Etudes)
    The records you said between 1929-1930 (Liszt sonata, Debussy preludes), technical problems started in those years, not too much but there were some mistakes. I think like this because of these comparisons:

    Debussy Children's Corner: 1923 versus 1928
    Debussy La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin: 1919 versus 1931
    Chopin Preludes: 1926 versus 1933
    Schumann Carnaval: 1923 versus 1928
    Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody Eleven: 1925 versus 1926

    Initial records are flawless technically but much drier. Cortot's later recordings (after 1925) are more colorful, intense and poetic; I argue that you are, I did not compare the 1950s and the 1930s, Change begins like 1925-1926 . The brilliant technique of Cortot before 1926, it is very difficult to find a mistake, moreover these are live recordings, no cutting just like today's studio recording. But there are serious differences with other records.
    Last edited by Cortot; Jul-17-2020 at 01:04.

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  3. #107
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    Quote Originally Posted by flamencosketches View Post
    This thread is really revealing a lot of ignorance re: Sofronitsky. It seems people are not aware that he really is in the upper echelon with any other pianist you could possibly name. He is not "just" the quintessential interpreter of Scriabin but indeed an elite virtuoso and interpreter absolutely no lesser than his successors Richter or Gilels. If you don't believe me, listen to any of the many CDs dedicated to his legacy on the Vista Vera or Denon labels. Seriously.
    For this reason, as I have said, these comparisons are futile. What we CAN compare and discuss is who is the best, or one of the best, to a specific composer. And, indeed, Wladimir Wladimirovitsch was (with Ruth Laredo and Neuhaus) the BEST with
    the Alexander the Great.
    „Es gibt drei Arten von Pianisten: jüdische Pianisten, homosexuelle Pianisten -- und schlechte Pianisten.“ V. Horowitz

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  5. #108
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cortot View Post
    The records you said between 1929-1930 (Liszt sonata, Debussy preludes), technical problems started in those years, not too much but there were some mistakes. I think like this because of these comparisons:

    Debussy Children's Corner: 1923 versus 1928
    Debussy La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin: 1919 versus 1931
    Chopin Preludes: 1926 versus 1933
    Schumann Carnaval: 1923 versus 1928
    Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody Eleven: 1925 versus 1926

    Initial records are flawless technically but much drier. Cortot's later recordings (after 1925) are more colorful, intense and poetic; I argue that you are, I did not compare the 1950s and the 1930s, Change begins like 1925-1926 . The brilliant technique of Cortot before 1926, it is very difficult to find a mistake, moreover these are live recordings, no cutting just like today's studio recording. But there are serious differences with other records.
    You definitely know your Cortot! His 30s recordings are the "perfect" middle ground for me.
    Last edited by UniversalTuringMachine; Jul-17-2020 at 01:13.

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  7. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniversalTuringMachine View Post
    You definitely know your Cortot! His 30s recordings are the "perfect" middle ground for me.
    Thank you . Late 20s and 30s recordings are "perfect" middle ground for me too, its absolutly peak period. Alfred Brendel says for Cortot's Brandenburg Concerto 5 Cadence 1932 recording: "This is the most beautiful piano playing I've ever heard!"

    Last edited by Cortot; Jul-17-2020 at 02:49.

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  9. #110
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cortot View Post
    Thank you . Late 20s and 30s recordings are "perfect" middle ground for me too, its absolutly peak period. Alfred Brendel says for Cortot's Brandenburg Concerto 5 Cadence 1932 recording: "This is the most beautiful piano playing I've ever heard!"
    Without a doubt, this is absolutely divine. The warmth and beauty of the tone are unbelievable.

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  11. #111
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cortot View Post
    The records you said between 1929-1930 (Liszt sonata, Debussy preludes), technical problems started in those years, not too much but there were some mistakes. I think like this because of these comparisons:

    Debussy Children's Corner: 1923 versus 1928
    Debussy La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin: 1919 versus 1931
    Chopin Preludes: 1926 versus 1933
    Schumann Carnaval: 1923 versus 1928
    Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody Eleven: 1925 versus 1926

    Initial records are flawless technically but much drier. Cortot's later recordings (after 1925) are more colorful, intense and poetic; I argue that you are, I did not compare the 1950s and the 1930s, Change begins like 1925-1926 . The brilliant technique of Cortot before 1926, it is very difficult to find a mistake, moreover these are live recordings, no cutting just like today's studio recording. But there are serious differences with other records.
    Ah yes, it’s true that I hardly recall those very early recordings.

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  13. #112
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniversalTuringMachine View Post
    His Beethoven piano concertos with Harnoncourt are fresh and great but this is a field of extreme fierce competition. I have a dozen of equally strong sets that has warmer tone and more singing phrases than Aimard (for example, Fleisher's classic recording with Szell). For me, clinical sounding is feature, not a bug, for both Aimard and Boulez.
    With works as great and as frequently recorded as the Beethoven concertos, it is unlikely that I will have one favourite. I think there are many routes to a transcendent experience with such works. I don't have a preferred way of doing them - although in different moods I prefer different approaches - and have never really understood when critics tell us that X has to be played in a certain way and that Y does that best. What I really like about Aimard in that set is that he doesn't barnstorm or show off: his accounts are very musical and bring lots of new insights. It apparently took Harnoncourt some time to persuade him to do them as he felt he might have nothing to add to what had gone before him. He changed his mind because he came to believe he did have something to say, after all. I know Fleisher's records and like them a lot but certainly wouldn't choose them over Aimard's. And for the record I do not hear them as clinical or sterile but they might seem understated by some who mainly listen to the big names of the past. I mentioned Solomon because, of the greats of the past, he seemed to also appear understated but nevertheless to deliver the whole works in all their glory.

  14. #113
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    I think Richter is one of the greatest. I don't judge a pianist's greatness by facility, speed, or flash; I judge by overall output, and consistency. Richter is certainly one of the most prolifically recorded pianists, with a long history of concert tours. Surely this must count for something!

    Read Shonberg's "The Great Pianists" and you will get sick of all the "string of pearls" metaphors.





    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jul-17-2020 at 13:11.

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  16. #114
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I listened to Richter’s infamously slow 1972 Prague account of Schubert D959 the other day. At first it really does seem ridiculously, illogical slow. I’m not at all convinced that the sonata should be played that way (I’m working on learning it myself right now). But somehow it just casts a spell. No one besides Richter could probably make it work the way he did. Everything about his playing is hypnotizing, almost addictive. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, but he possessed this unique ability of fierce concentration, mixed with stunning technique, that I haven’t heard from any other pianist. At first I didn’t understand why he is so revered, but he definitely rewards repeated listening.

    Last edited by Allegro Con Brio; Jul-17-2020 at 14:33.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art is an attempt to transport into a limited quantity of matter, modeled by man, an image of the infinite beauty of the entire universe." - Simone Weil

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

  17. #115
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    ^ It's funny but several decades ago I tended not to listen to solo piano music. It was Richter who changed that. I got a box of several CDs (lot's of Beethoven, some Schubert, the old classic Pictures at an Exhibition etc) in an HMV Shop sale and that mesmerising concentration - it seems always to be there in his performances - had me hooked from the first. It was a while before I was ready to listen to anyone else, though.

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  19. #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegro Con Brio View Post
    I listened to Richter’s infamously slow 1972 Prague account of Schubert D959 the other day. At first it really does seem ridiculously, illogical slow. I’m not at all convinced that the sonata should be played that way (I’m working on learning it myself right now). But somehow it just casts a spell. No one besides Richter could probably make it work the way he did. Everything about his playing is hypnotizing, almost addictive. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, but he possessed this unique ability of fierce concentration, mixed with stunning technique, that I haven’t heard from any other pianist. At first I didn’t understand why he is so revered, but he definitely rewards repeated listening.
    Maybe you know this story, Glenn Gould had the same experience you had When he went to Richter's concert in 1957, the program opened with this sonata of Schubert. Gould didn't like Schubert (unnecessary too many repetitions) and he wasn't happy that this was one of the longest sonata, on top of that when he heard Richter playing very slowly, he was scared to be bored, this should normally be. But when the sonata was over, he was in a state to like "hypnotic trance".
    Last edited by Cortot; Jul-17-2020 at 17:21.

  20. #117
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    Also Aimard should be on the list

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  22. #118
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    I’m listening to this album of piano rolls from Cortot right now. What a treat to hear his playing in what sounds like perfect stereo sound from the piano rolls! The combination of technique and interpretation is unearthly. Not sure what year these were salvaged from, but I would guess still early ’20’s or earlier because of the relative lack of mistakes.

    cortot grand piano.jpg
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art is an attempt to transport into a limited quantity of matter, modeled by man, an image of the infinite beauty of the entire universe." - Simone Weil

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

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  24. #119
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    And, after all, we forgot to mention Godowsky (the Einstein von Klavier) and the John (Ogdon) is not here, either the divine Earl and the Van... And Americans & Britons are writing here and these pianists are the MUST of the MUST, of the MUST etc... There are many great pianist, but the greatest is the immortal music. Every Richter must have one Beethoven to show us his art, every Cortot his Chopin and every Arrau his Liszt.
    Last edited by Dimace; Jul-17-2020 at 21:55.
    „Es gibt drei Arten von Pianisten: jüdische Pianisten, homosexuelle Pianisten -- und schlechte Pianisten.“ V. Horowitz

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  26. #120
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    And then there is Gyorgy Cziffra, whose absence from this poll could simply be another victim of lack of extensive discography but my jaw drops open almost every time I hear him. His complete set of Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies is unearthly in its virtuosity, and these Chopin Etudes are uniquely special if over the top:

    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art is an attempt to transport into a limited quantity of matter, modeled by man, an image of the infinite beauty of the entire universe." - Simone Weil

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

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