Saturday, July 16, 2011

This conversation speaks for itself...

Please help me clear things out!
So... Yesterday I decided to post a topic on an online music forum about the one of the pieces I am currently working on, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. My purpose behind creating the post was to find pianists who have played the piece before, hoping that they could share their experiences with learning and performing the piece (some of these forum members have been in the "piano world" for a quite a while). I got a rather odd response from one person, which I interpreted as an encouragement for me to withdraw from this project altogether because it has already been interpreted in musicallly untouchable heights.

Out of courtesy, I will refrain from revealing this member's profile name. Here is his reply, followed by mine.


"Rubinstein's recording of this is a very, very tough act to follow.  Setting aside concerns about post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc fallacies, you might find that doing this piece took all the snow out of winter just like the Appassionata sonata;  do you want that?  I don't, because the snow is so beautiful."
My response:

      "I appreciate your response yet respectfully disagree (if I am not mistaken as to what precisely you mean).
I am a pianist and I believe that what I have to say is different, exciting and new (isn't that the reason why we become pianists in the first place?). Classical music has been blessed by an army of virtuosos, many of them transcendentally talented; as musicians we have tough acts to follow every day, with nearly every piece we play in the standard repertoire.
Now, you say that Rubinstein's act is a tough one to follow. That is a matter of personal opinion! I think following Rachmaninoff's own act or Pletnev's act (which is, in my opinion, a miracle) is even more difficult (please understand that I love Rubinstein; the latter performers take the pedestal in this particular situation, in my opinion).
It is encouraging to know that people still listen to the Appasionata- not only the piece itself- but interpretations by Schnabel, Schiff, Horowitz, and other giants. I will humbly say that they even care to listen to my own interpretation!
That is what makes music special; the variety of interpretations of one masterwork. There are many winters and lots of snow; I am glad audiences recognize that."

                                                                                                         M. B. 


I could be wrong, but I think that was a justifiable response. It is one of those things in music which audiences and performers may at times ignore; we settle for a single way of interpreting music. We are sinning against the potential of the composer's creation! It is not about further "perfection," just naturally speaking something different through the same piece.
In personal experience, I love to listen to Glenn Gould's first recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Andras Schiff says something different through the same piece; his recording is different yet just as wonderful! This is one of the greatest things in music: Its versatility!

Please feel free to express your thoughts and comments!

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