lundi 30 janvier 2012

I want to buy Ives Violin Sonatas !!

Buying digital tracks on the web can be just crazy ...

I wanted to get the recent recording of Ives's Violin Sonatas by Hilary Hahn and Valentina Lisita. Like many, ie 99% of us, I no longer buy physical CDs but buy digital tracks.

I visited the DG web site, selected the content, proceeded to checkout and filled all information on payments, where I was suddenly told that I cannot buy this in Switzerland:

Same by the way for Amazon:

(and sorry for the self-promotion since my book is on the bottom right of the picture ...).

and Itunes (which believes that everyone is Switzerland speaks German):

Why is there such a restriction ? I have stopped using Itunes because of their crazy DRM constraints ? Why do editors do such a great job to ensure that hurdles are put in between their offers and potential buyers ?

(and for French readers, my review of the opening concert of the 2008 season of the OSR with Hahn as a soloist is here.)

mercredi 25 janvier 2012

Books (the sequel ...)

I have taken some more time to read the books I mentioned on an earlier post.

Of the three, I was left dry is on the one on George Szell. The author Michael Charry display a genuine respect for Szell but Szell beginning go too fast. One does not get a sense of how he developped. The other topic of Szell's famous dicatorial attitude is briefly mentioned but too cautiously (and can I remind readers of a Szell joke of him saying to the orchestra: let us rehearse the music and then we will rehearse the spontaneity ...)

This being said, it has made me buy the Grammar of Conducting, a book Szell recommended. I will keep you posted on it.

The one by Riccardo Muti on the other hand spends a significant time on his formative years. It really makes appreciate the value of the Italian conservatory systems and their teachers. Muti, very correctly, identifies what he ows to to all his professors who saw his potential and developped him. While one can have an image of a fairly over confident conductor, he comes out as more humane and profound. The parts on the later years may be less interesting as he is keen on not forgetting anyone ... but the beginning is revelatory. (On Muti, may I direct readers to the blog of Chicago critic Andrew Patner which includes a number of regular interviews of Muti. Highly recommended.)

Charles Barber's book on Carlos Kleiber is fascinating and I really recommend it.I am guessing that it was written by the author, ie, there was no ghost writer interviewing someone and putting words into a book. Baker became a regular penpal with Kleiber, probably because he reached out to him in a direct and unaffected manner and also because he seemed to share a similar sense of humor. Maybe, this was a breath of fresh air as everyone was probably bowing with the utmost respect to him.

he first part is as detailed description of Kleiber's life as one can read. I was unaware of many details, a fascinating one being the story of the recording sessions with Michelangeli.

The second part includes a significant part of the Baker - Kleiber's correspondance. It contains unique jewels as one can appreciate Kleiber's encyclopedic knowledge, quick wit, ... and understand some of his concerns (read the letters on the mistakes on Orchestral parts ...). There are also some great insights on Kleiber's commenting when to pre-beat.

Whether one will understand and graps Kleiber's genius is another story. Maybe like Kane's Rosebud, one should respect and "do not trespass".

When time allows for, I will try to write my own Kleiber stories of the 7 unforgettable Operas I heard him conduct from 1981 (Rosenkavalier in Munich Jones - Fassbaender - Popp - Moll) to 1994 (Rosenkavalier in Vienna Lott - Von Otter - Bonney - Moll). This will be another post.

mardi 24 janvier 2012

Bruckner Glass !!

The Berlin Staatskapelle under Daniel Barenboim was in Victoria Hall to perform a superb Bruckner Third Symphony.

This work is among the rarely played of his Austrian composer works. My wife who is Austrian had never heard it live and had a great comment: "the first mouvement sounded like Philip Glass".

Well, think about it !

jeudi 5 janvier 2012

Generation Pollini

Maurizio Pollini 70th birthday is today.

Every musician has a figurehead who is the reference. For me, for us, this is Pollini. An artist which represents modernism and progress in his artistic filed. In their times, this might have been Hans von Bulow or Gustav Mahler (the conductor not the composer).

I first heard Pollini in concert as early as 1976 when he played Schubert's last three Sonatas. I was 15 at the time and discovered the piano repertory because Pollini regularly visited Paris and played major works.

What constantly amazed me would be some Pollini's characteristics:
  • Every note which is heard has a meaning and is part of a greater whole that Pollini makes you aware of,
  • When you hear him play Bach or Mozart, you can hear where Beethoven will go, late Beethoven leads to Schumann, Chopin leads to Debussy or Boulez, ..., No one else has ever made us aware of the influences composers have had from one to the others,
  • No sentimentality and posturing yet his playing and his phrasns are very poetic and expressive.
I have unique memories of revelations in concert. He once played Webern op 27 in between Stockhausen Klaviestucke and the Brahms op 116. The uniqueness of Webern sparce colors was a striking contrats to the orchestral piano writing of both Brahms and Stockhausen. Suddenly Webern's modernism was made so obvious.

On another occasion, I heard him play Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata. This was the first time I heard the work. It felt so logical and so coherent that I bought the score the following day believing it to be fully playable. There is no need to mention I realised how wrong I was and how much work and art there had been to make this titanic work sound so approchable.

One should be grateful for his recorded legacy although his artistery can really be appreciated in concerts. On many occasions, he appears tense in the beginning of his concerts, probably going on stage is still not natural. But once he starts relaxing, tempi usually settle down and miracles can take place.

70 is a young age and we can expect to hear him again on many occasions. For younger generations, do hear what many of us believe to be the most important pianist of our time. For mine, no encouragement is needed.