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favourite pianists? (classical)


drumadima

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I don't have any personal favorites per se. For me, when I listen to 'classical' music I really just listen to the composer. As long as the performer doesn't distract me too much with errors, being sloppy or being a tad too self indulgent, I'm content just listening to the 'budget' labels.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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A couple artists come to mind. I do love Maria Joao Pires' chamber style, in particular the grieg violin sonatas. Andre Hamlin's playing intrigued me til I saw his total lack of interest in a live audience. I'd love to hear Indrek Laul someday. He own's the piano company I'm interested in, and has made a dynamite recording of several Romantic concertos. He sounds pretty good!

 

For the most part, I've bought CDs for the music not the artist, but on occasion have doubles and a comparison is interesting. I'm sometimes biased towards whatever gets played first. :rolleyes:

"........! Try to make It..REAL! compared to what? ! ! ! " - BOPBEEPER
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funny,because when i go shopping for classical music i allways look at the artist...i mean if i know which piece of music im looking for ill look for the best artist and buy that disc..even if i dont know what im looking for and come across an interesting disc,id still look at the artist and if the name doesnt tell me anything id search for the same music played by someone i know i like...funny ;)
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Originally posted by fulcrum:

Vladimir Horowitz was so clean it was scary just to watch. Ditto Glenn Gould (whatever else may be said about his idiosyncrasies, which never bothered me all that much).

 

I've had reason to be impressed by Emanuel Ax and Martha Argerich lately.

hm...i love Horowitz's Mozart and Scarlatti..i think one of the best interpretations (imho,offcourse)...Glenn Gould is undoubtfuly a bold artist.His talent is out of question,he is genious.his work with Bach alone would make him famous.as for me,i do not find his playing close to my taste,but i do believe he's an amazing pianist,deep and really one of a kind.all that talk about his idiosyncrasies has nothing to do with music! after all music is a listening expirience,so if you like what you hear-say so,if you dont--say u dont..but talking about strange aspects of ones behaiviour has NOTHING to do with music criticsism (imho).

Yes,i've listened to Martha Argerich live (as well as some of her CD) and i must say i was impressed..a very good musician indeed.

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I think the artist makes a huge difference. Skip those budget Naxos recordings cause you can pay the same money for reissues of various piano genii from past decades. My favourite: Sviatoslav Richter playing Pictures at an Exhibition. Dodgy recording quality. Unsurpassed performance. Absolutely inspired. Sure you could choose another recording and the notes are gonna be the same, but this makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Which is surely what great classical music is about.

Keys: Hammond SK2, Hammond SK1, Hammond SKpro, Korg Vox Continental, Waldorf STVC

Amplification: Line6 L3T, Yamaha DBR-10, Presonus Air 10, Leslie 122V

 

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If I exclude the composers themselves - because many of them were incredible pianists : Beethoven, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Skriabin, Bartók... - and only the best interpreters :

 

V. Horowitz - What can we say more about him. When he died, the last link to true (from the heart to the heart) classical piano playing disappeared.

 

G. Gould - A true romantic genius. Never heard one false note or a nuance error from him anywhere.

 

C. Arrau - A great introverted poet. With his alternative, and sometimes almost metaphysical renderings, he renewed many pieces we were used to hear a certain way.

 

D. Baremboim - Another great piano poet, who concentrates on luminosity and inner feelings, rather than on pure technique and virtuosity.

 

G. Cziffra - Famous for his unsurpassed and extraordinary technique. Although he was a good pianist not only focusing on performance, he enjoyed exploiting his talent in crazy tempi. Nobody could or can play faster than him (listen to his interpretation of Liszt's Grand Galop Chromatique and you'll understand). :D

 

I'll stop here not to make a too long post.

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For me the performer makes a huge difference. But also the quality of the recording and production also is a factor. I find myself making compromises in each area sometimes e.g. many Horowitz recordings are great but old and relatively poor quality. The Naxos recordings on the other hand sound good, but aren't the greatest performances.

 

My favorites:

 

Martha Argerich - especially Rach 3 live. technique and passion IMO

 

Marc-Andre Hamelin - he sounds sterile and mechanical sometimes, but his shear technique is amazing. Especially on the Liszt Rhapsody in C#minor- this must be the best recording of this piece out there, and his Alkan recordings.

 

I also like Andre Watts and van Cliburn

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For me the performer makes a huge difference. But also the quality of the recording and production also is a factor. I find myself making compromises in each area sometimes e.g. many Horowitz recordings are great but old and relatively poor quality. The Naxos recordings on the other hand sound good, but aren't the greatest performances.

 

My favorites:

 

Martha Argerich - especially Rach 3 live. technique and passion IMO

 

Marc-Andre Hamelin - he sounds sterile and mechanical sometimes, but his shear technique is amazing. Especially on the Liszt Rhapsody in C#minor- this must be the best recording of this piece out there, and his Alkan recordings.

 

I also like Andre Watts and van Cliburn

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Too many to mention. A few random thoughts:

 

- Rudolf Serkin on the last Beethoven sonatas. I had the privilege to hear him in concert playing the op. 106, 110 and 111; one of those life-changing experiences.

 

- Gyorgy Sandor on just about everything. Other than having written my favorite book on piano technique, the man is an incredible artist/interpreter. I lastly heard him last year (at 93 years old!) on Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin, and he still plays incredibly well. A real master.

 

- I'm not a Pollini fan, but his recordings of the Chopin Etudes and the Boulez second sonata are astounding. As a pianist, you can't help to envy his superhuman technique, precision and speed.

 

- Benedetti Michelangeli on the Debussy Preludes. If there ever was a pianist who was born to play Debussy, it was him. What an incredible "liquid" sound.

 

- Konstantin Sherbakov on the Shostakovitch Preludes and Fugues; one of my favorite CD of the last years. He's also very good on Rachmaninoff, but since he's not my favorite composer, I didn't get any CD.

 

- Wilhelm Kempff on anything Beethoven. He was maybe the last descendant of that Backhaus tradition of German interpreters. His recording of the Beethoven sonatas is a classic. Fortunately, he seems to have a successor in Alexander Lonquich.

 

- Glenn Gould, of course. I hate his Mozart, but I love most of his Bach. A composer under the appearance of a pianist. A genius.

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Many brilliant, wonderful musicians have been mentioned. I just thought I'd add Leif Ove Andnes, a younger pianist from Norway who records for EMI. I find him to be both thoughtful and musical in really interesting ways.

 

(Come to think of it, Ove Andnes is my age, and neither one of us should really be called "younger" anymore.)

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The late Youri Egorov, Debussy Preludes Books I&II, Reflets dans l'eau, Estampes Book I. Released 1985 on EMI. Consummate Russian school technique blended with an astonishing poetry of spirit. One can scarcely imagine Ricardo Vines premiering the work in more harmony with the composer's intent. Also, the finest piano recording I have ever found. Hamburg Steinway D creating an entire sonic universe. I have both the LPs and the CDs. The recording is a benchmark. Performance, IMO perfect. I can't criticise a single thing.

 

Vlado Perlmuter, Ravel, because he was taught briefly by him and retains the Olde School organic balance beautifully. Who else can play the pyrotechnic Gaspard de la Nuit at over 80 years of age?

 

Geza Anda, Complete Mozart Piano Concerti. Effortless competence, mirth and mischievousness lightness, like the composer himself. The essence of Vienna by way of Budapest.

 

And of course, don't forget Rachmaninov, the most brilliant classical pianist of his generation, especially playing his own works.

 

I'm sure I could think of some others, given time.

"To Do Is To Be." --Socrates

"To Be Is To Do." --Sartre

"Do Be Do Be Do." --Sinatra

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Don't forget Artur Rubinstein, particularly for Chopin. Also, for Chopin, Krystian Zimmerman, particularly for the concertos. Radu Lupu is worth listening to, I think. Personally, though some may consider him too intellectual or classical in his approach, I like Alfred Brendel for both Mozart and Beethoven. Horowitz for Rachmaninoff, among other things. And don't forget Charles Rosen, a great student of the classical tradition, and someone who does an incredible job of taking his study of that tradition and implementing it in both his technique, and interpretation.

Wanda Landowska on harpsichord, for J.S. Bach. More I can't recall right now.

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I had the amazing opportunity to see V Horowitz play live in Moscow in 86, I believe. I was astonished that the Soviets would let him back in the country, and back out again! Anyway, his tech came in, tore the ambassador's Steinway apart, laid the pieces all over the ballroom, then rebuilt the thing to Horowitz' specs. I'll tell you one thing, his tech was a killer player too.

 

Anyway, I got a front row seat, and had to pick my jaw up off the floor when he finished. I was a novice player then, and he made me really want to practice and improve. I saw, firsthand, what dedication to an artform could achieve. Many thanks to Vladimir Horowitz.

 

Now, to get off my butt and practice like I know I need to.

 

Jay

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Originally posted by jay da cop:

I had the amazing opportunity to see V Horowitz play live in Moscow in 86, I believe. I was astonished that the Soviets would let him back in the country, and back out again! Anyway, his tech came in, tore the ambassador's Steinway apart, laid the pieces all over the ballroom, then rebuilt the thing to Horowitz' specs. I'll tell you one thing, his tech was a killer player too.

 

Anyway, I got a front row seat, and had to pick my jaw up off the floor when he finished. I was a novice player then, and he made me really want to practice and improve. I saw, firsthand, what dedication to an artform could achieve. Many thanks to Vladimir Horowitz.

 

Now, to get off my butt and practice like I know I need to.

 

Jay

wow...lucky you! i wasn't even born yet :D
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what do you actualy look for in a assessing a performance. I am quite familiar with many of pieces you have mentioned, but ill have to be honest and say i couldnt tell the difference between a Naxos recording and more prestegious one. Is it more of a general feel or there are actual mistakes made ?
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what do you actualy look for in a assessing a performance. I am quite familiar with many of pieces you have mentioned, but ill have to be honest and say i couldnt tell the difference between a Naxos recording and more prestegious one. Is it more of a general feel or there are actual mistakes made ?
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Originally posted by marino:

- Gyorgy Sandor on just about everything. Other than having written my favorite book on piano technique, the man is an incredible artist/interpreter. I lastly heard him last year (at 93 years old!) on Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin, and he still plays incredibly well. A real master.

Indeed. Can you really say anything bad about a guy who was Bartok's top student and the man that Bartok chose to premiere so many of his piano works?

 

I heard a recording of Ives playing the other day - that guy was a sick piano player, especially for an insurance guy.

 

Rachmaninoff's playing was brilliant. He definitely shows us the beauty of the modern age, being able to hear a composer play his own work, crystallized for eternity as a recording so that we can not only enjoy the brilliance of his playing, but also get to hear the piece the way it was conceived.

 

Glen Gould, what can I say, the guy just makes the piano talk.

 

Alan Mandel's performances of Ives' piano works are wonderful, in spite of some poor recording technique. I can listen to Ives' piano stuff all day long.

A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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ill have to be honest and say i couldnt tell the difference between a Naxos recording and more prestegious one. Is it more of a general feel or there are actual mistakes made
Maybe I've been lucky, or maybe it's that I only have a half-dozen or so Naxos titles, but I'd put the performances I've personally heard against any others in terms of competence and, in some cases, passion. I don't think you'll hear many idiosyncratic performances of old chestnuts on the label, but they work as reference points for me, especially for works I'm unlikely to collect multiple performances of.

 

In addition, Naxos has a series of historical recordings -- Schnabel playing Beethoven, for example, or Prokofiev performing his own stuff -- and Naxos is the home of several contemporary American composers. They're not really a budget label, any more than Nonesuch is a budget label.

 

+1 for Richter. There's *so* much of his stuff available now that it's hard to tell which is the best, but his DG Prokofiev recordings are really molten dangerous ore.

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Originally posted by sudeep:

what do you actualy look for in a assessing a performance. I am quite familiar with many of pieces you have mentioned, but ill have to be honest and say i couldnt tell the difference between a Naxos recording and more prestegious one. Is it more of a general feel or there are actual mistakes made ?

Maybe it's time for a blind or double blind listening test. There are so many extremely talented Eastern European musicians and many record (probably for not so much money) on those budget labels.

 

What irritates me, the name of the performer being larger (font size) than the name of the composer on the CD booklet. Sometimes I think we forget that we're listening to the music of the composer and the performer is just the middle man.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.

 

In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.

 

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Originally posted by Dave Horne:

... Sometimes I think we forget that we're listening to the music of the composer and the performer is just the middle man.

I understand this thinking, but I don't know that I completely agree. There are times when I listen to a recording primarily to hear the performer's interpretation rather than the composer's original conception. The example that first comes to my mind is Glenn Gould. When I listen to Gould do the Goldberg Variations, in my mind I'm hearing Gould more than I'm hearing Bach.

 

Larry.

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I don't know if other people are like me in this respect, but I have a strong tendency to like the first performer I hear playing a given piece or body of work. Partly I think because I "absorb" music over a long period of time, with many, many listenings, 'till, with my favorite pieces, I know every nuance by heart. In a real sense, that performer's interpretation becomes for me identical with the piece itself.

 

So I just don't audition alternate performers very often.

 

But when I do try an alternate performer, sometimes the difference is astonishing - making we wonder which performer is "fudging". Of course sometimes a little fudge is pretty tasty, so that is not necessarily a knock. Or sometimes the fudge just makes you sick.

 

Here's an example: I have Debussy's Preludes from Claudio Arrau, and I know he is a great pianist, one of the inimitable biggies. But I can't stand what sounds to me like ponderous melodramatic playing on pieces like "La cathedrale engloutie". I also have a set of the Preludes from Krystian Zimerman and his interpretations I find infinitely more listenable. Arrau is probably far up the list of great pianists from Zimerman, I guess. But I haven't read through the sheet music or read anything scholarly about Debussy's Preludes, so I haven't a clue as to which performance is more authentic (less fudge).

 

But really, it doesn't matter all that much to me - I'm not a music scholar or classical performer, much less an authenticity hound.

 

To the point: the composed music "behind" the performance is something of a chimera. You never get the music straight-lined from the composer's brain, and if you did, it's not necessarily the case that the composer always fulfills his own basic ideas as well as later interpreters. Of course, interpreted music is a sort of a frankenstein - but therein lies the mystery and fascination.

 

nat whilk ii

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Some really good points are being raised.

 

From my perspective, the mark of a great performance is to overcome the many times mechanical nature of composition from the classical era and to sublimate a liquid poetry in its place. This takes both technical precision and mastery on the one hand, and aesthetic sense and sensibility on the other.

 

For example, La Cathedral Engloutie is technically speaking a piece of moderate difficulty. The hardest section, I have always found, is in the block chords in the middle. Here, rubato is a no no, yet rythmic precision is a death knell. The trick is to keep the cadence of the tolling chords (bells) in a naturalistic flow. Too tight=solemn. Too loose=disjointed. The phrasing is particularly critical.

 

I always remind myself of the imagery of the old Norman myth about Mont St. Michel which inspired this particular prelude...this helps to inform the playing to suggest bubbling, churning waters...bells pealing...and the cathedral sinking into its abyss again. Knowing the background oftentimes helps to sympathise your performance.

 

As far as the composer's interpretation, I couldn't care less. Composers come in all stripes: some brilliant pianists (Debussy), some quite middling (Ravel). But Ravel's brilliance is in the fact that he experimented heavily in voicings to compensate, making him the greatest orchestrator since Hector Berlioz.

 

It is the job of the composer to suggest, and the performer to interpret. They are true equals, like the writer and the reader.

 

Last, I've been doing serious audiophile listening since 1981, when I bought my first STAX SR-Sigma Earspeakers (not headphones), and ran them thru the first pseudo class A amp at the time. The most important element of a recording is to capture the performance (dynamic range) with natural but not excessive amount of ambience (probably about 50-75% of what one would actually hear live, since your listening room will add its own ambience as well).

 

If you wish an acutal comparison, listen to the Egorov Debussy (EMI), and then the same works by Jacques Rouvier (Denon IIRC). The Denon has the wrong mikes (Bruel & Kjer) too far from the piano.

 

Last but not least, the piano? For late classical, either a custom built 10-foot or an off the rack Hamburg Steinway D. What makes a D so great in classical, is that it totally changes its timbre from ppp to fff. It start to become crystalline in the high registers like breaking glass, and the middle registers start to clang. The bass registers simply rattle the rafters if sufficiently provoked.

 

Of course, even here, 50% of the piano's potential is in its voicing, and the other 50% in its tuning. For those who don't know, dependent on the temperament of the tuner, a muddy piano can become crystalline, and vice versa. Very important, but sadly not universally recognised.

"To Do Is To Be." --Socrates

"To Be Is To Do." --Sartre

"Do Be Do Be Do." --Sinatra

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