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Pollini and Beethoven
#2324567 09/05/14 09:08 PM
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I logged on after being away for months to post: I heard a recorded performance of Pollini playing the Waldstein last night and it was ravishing! I, erroneously of course, thought he was too clinical of a player and would not have thought him suitable to capture the pathos and drama of Beethoven, especially the Waldstein which is one of my favorite pieces of any composer. Was I wrong! His performance of the first movement was very satisfying-strong, powerful, quick, and fluid. He captured all the "otherness" of the 2nd movement, and nicely accentuated the voices and dissonances. The 3rd movement was also stunning and really embodied the ethereal ness and joy that I love about it

Last edited by antony; 09/05/14 09:09 PM.
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
antony #2324783 09/06/14 02:23 PM
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Pollini is very good.


Poetry is rhythm
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
antony #2324792 09/06/14 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by antony
I, erroneously of course, thought he was too clinical of a player and would not have thought him suitable to capture the pathos and drama of Beethoven, especially the Waldstein which is one of my favorite pieces of any composer. Was I wrong!

Pollini is certainly an 'objective' pianist, and he never dawdles or sentimentalizes, no matter how great the temptation - but he's not clinical or 'sterile' (whatever that means in music wink ).

So, his Chopin nocturnes can sound almost business-like in their swiftness and minimal rubato, but you'll hear plenty of nuances from him, and few match him in control of pp tonal gradation - helped, of course, by his Fabbrini-enhanced Steinway....

In Beethoven, he gets straight to the point, with a directness and even brusqueness and vehemence that can sound disconcerting - he takes no prisoners when Beethoven is in an angry mood. But when Beethoven is reaching for the heavens, as in Op.111, no-one can rival his Innigkeit and control of nuance, yet without ever turning sentiment into sentimentality. In fact, in some ways, his conception of Beethoven is very similar to his idol Artur Schnabel's - but without the latter's technical frailties.....

Which is why his Schumann C major Fantasy is still unrivalled, IMO. The emotional impact is all the greater for being restrained: 'emotion recollected in tranquillity' is a concept he's long ago mastered.

As for the Waldstein, it seems to be one of his favorite Beethoven sonatas: he's recorded it twice for DG, the second version live. And of course, he never cheats - an octave glissando is an octave glissando......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2324798 09/06/14 04:19 PM
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Good post-thanks. I like your description of his playing and am now very eager to hear his fantasy and op111

"to the point" made me think. Maybe it's his "to the point-ness" which some come to label as his "sterility". Stereotypes are a bad thing- case in point my impression of pollini was preceded by this concept of him being clinical but just ignorance on my part.

Another view of being "to the point" in interpretation: if the "point" of the music is emotion and it's played as such but being adhered to in regards to the score, maybe that's where his "sterility" comes in. Some listeners want to hear the emotion exaggerated and if it's not being done its "sterile"

Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2324833 09/06/14 06:28 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

Which is why his Schumann C major Fantasy is still unrivalled, IMO.

Thanks for the IMO! Pollini is of course welcome to his interpretation, but some of us might not respond as well to anything 'restrained' here. The Fantasy is emotionally 'over-the-top', youthful love et al, that is how I like my performances, and... IMO wink ... Argerich is unmatched. (To be fair, that is not a consensus opinion.)

Quote
As for the Waldstein, it seems to be one of his favorite Beethoven sonatas [...] And of course, he never cheats - an octave glissando is an octave glissando......

Not sure why 'cheating' in the octave glissando is any transgression. Obviously Beethoven was writing for a very different piano than we play on today, and I think it more important to capture the 'spirit', and I certainly heard that in a recent performance by Nelson Friere. Otherwise, there are ample performances to satisfy the 'period instruments boys'. (To co-opt Virgil Fox for a moment.) laugh


Jason
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
argerichfan #2324837 09/06/14 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by bennevis

Which is why his Schumann C major Fantasy is still unrivalled, IMO.

Thanks for the IMO! Pollini is of course welcome to his interpretation, but some of us might not respond as well to anything 'restrained' here. The Fantasy is emotionally 'over-the-top', youthful love et al, that is how I like my performances, and... IMO wink ... Argerich is unmatched. (To be fair, that is not a consensus opinion.)

Quote
As for the Waldstein, it seems to be one of his favorite Beethoven sonatas [...] And of course, he never cheats - an octave glissando is an octave glissando......

Not sure why 'cheating' in the octave glissando is any transgression.

You might like to know that BBC Radio 3's long-running 'Building a Library' Saturday morning programme has Pollini's Schumann Fantasie in C as the top recommendation, so it's not just IMO wink . (The reviewer was Joan Chissell). Pollini also won the top recommendation for Chopin's 24 Preludes and Prokofiev's Sonata No.7.

As for the Waldstein, it wouldn't matter how those octave glissandi are played, as long as they sound like octave glissandi, and no notes are left out. But that's never the case when they're fudged......

Last edited by bennevis; 09/06/14 07:05 PM. Reason: More Pollini winners!

"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2324855 09/06/14 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
The reviewer was Joan Chissell.

Your point? I have not always agreed with her, and it is highly unlikely she is much more than an armchair listener... which critics tend to be. Piff, paff. laugh
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Pollini also won the top recommendation for Chopin's 24 Preludes and Prokofiev's Sonata No.7.

Neither of which I would agree with, but to be fair, I simply am not much of a fan of Pollini. Fair enough, eh? crazy
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As for the Waldstein, it wouldn't matter how those octave glissandi are played, as long as they sound like octave glissandi, and no notes are left out. But that's never the case when they're fudged......

You contradict yourself. You say it is okay if they 'sound' like glissandi, but also want-your-cake-and-eat-it-too in insisting that no notes be left out.

As I said above, what does it matter? Beethoven's glissandi are not practical on a modern piano -good on those who care to try it- but certainly you do not think the effect on a modern piano is anything Beethoven had in mind?



Jason
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
argerichfan #2324879 09/06/14 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan

You contradict yourself. You say it is okay if they 'sound' like glissandi, but also want-your-cake-and-eat-it-too in insisting that no notes be left out.

As I said above, what does it matter? Beethoven's glissandi are not practical on a modern piano -good on those who care to try it- but certainly you do not think the effect on a modern piano is anything Beethoven had in mind?


No, I never contradict myself. Beethoven knew what he wanted. And I know what I want to hear......

BTW, Brahms's Paganini Variations include one (Bk 1, Variation 13) whose raison d'ĂȘtre are the octave glissandi. Would anyone who can't manage them play the work? I don't think so. And I've never heard anyone play this on a period piano.

Similarly, the finale of the Waldstein builds up towards those impressionistic-sounding octave glissandi before the final peroration. While it's not quite as damaging if a pianist fudges those (playing them as two handed scales and leaving out some notes, or playing them as single-note glissandi), it still isn't what the composer had in mind.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2324896 09/06/14 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
No, I never contradict myself.

As someone who thinks occasional self-contradiction is a virtue, I cannot resist: smile

The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.
- Oscar Wilde


One is fruitful only at the cost of being rich in contradictions.
- Nietzsche


In art, and maybe just in general, the idea is to be able to be really comfortable with contradictory ideas. In other words, wisdom might be, seem to be, two contradictory ideas both expressed at their highest level and just let to sit in the same cage sort of, vibrating.
- George Saunders



Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2324976 09/07/14 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
...it still isn't what the composer had in mind.

I'm not disagreeing with that, but one could also point out that the modern Steinway isn't what the composer had in mind either. I recently saw a terrific video of Nelson Friere playing the Waldstein with a very convincing compromise in the octave glissandi. (Should still be up on yt.)

The glissandi in the Brahms aren't nearly as 'dangerous', though Earl Wild extended them a bit IIRC.


Jason
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
argerichfan #2325070 09/07/14 02:15 PM
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I've never found any way to play octave glissandi reliably. I can do so easily for sixths and sevenths, but my span simply precludes the possibility for octaves.

However, I can sometimes- if I don't take the prestissimo too frantically, and I can completely shut out all thoughts about its mechanical demands - manage the Waldstein octaves using a very light upper-arm powered vibrato touch. (It takes a fair amount of audiation-based practice!) Has anyone else here tried that?


Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Pollini and Beethoven
Scordatura #2325151 09/07/14 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Scordatura

However, I can sometimes- if I don't take the prestissimo too frantically, and I can completely shut out all thoughts about its mechanical demands - manage the Waldstein octaves using a very light upper-arm powered vibrato touch. (It takes a fair amount of audiation-based practice!) Has anyone else here tried that?

Yeah, light upper arm, that is how I played the Waldstein at uni, FWIW! These days I would cheerfully have done it differently, but hindsight is oh so 'wise'.

Would be nice if bennevis had a comment. wink


Jason
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
argerichfan #2325157 09/07/14 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by Scordatura

However, I can sometimes- if I don't take the prestissimo too frantically, and I can completely shut out all thoughts about its mechanical demands - manage the Waldstein octaves using a very light upper-arm powered vibrato touch. (It takes a fair amount of audiation-based practice!) Has anyone else here tried that?

Yeah, light upper arm, that is how I played the Waldstein at uni, FWIW! These days I would cheerfully have done it differently, but hindsight is oh so 'wise'.

Would be nice if bennevis had a comment. wink

If it sounds like an octave glissando, I have no problems with that - as long as you don't slow those bars down.......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2325163 09/07/14 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis

If it sounds like an octave glissando, I have no problems with that - as long as you don't slow those bars down.......

I didn't in my performance. crazy

Now about my pedaling in the rondo... Father forgive me, could I have another chance?


Jason
Re: Pollini and Beethoven
argerichfan #2325174 09/07/14 08:09 PM
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So what do you think of pollini's Waldstein ?

Re: Pollini and Beethoven
bennevis #2325266 09/08/14 05:31 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by Scordatura

However, I can sometimes- if I don't take the prestissimo too frantically, and I can completely shut out all thoughts about its mechanical demands - manage the Waldstein octaves using a very light upper-arm powered vibrato touch. (It takes a fair amount of audiation-based practice!) Has anyone else here tried that?

Yeah, light upper arm, that is how I played the Waldstein at uni, FWIW! These days I would cheerfully have done it differently, but hindsight is oh so 'wise'.

Would be nice if bennevis had a comment. wink

If it sounds like an octave glissando, I have no problems with that - as long as you don't slow those bars down.......


Well, I take your meaning, of course. However, Beethoven doesn't actually verbally specify "glissando" here, merely 5/1 above each eighth-note, which leaves open the vibrato non-glissando as a valid alternative. And that, to my ear, doesn't sound the same as the glissando method.


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Re: Pollini and Beethoven
antony #2325294 09/08/14 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by antony
Good post-thanks. I like your description of his playing and am now very eager to hear his fantasy and op111

"to the point" made me think. Maybe it's his "to the point-ness" which some come to label as his "sterility". Stereotypes are a bad thing- case in point my impression of pollini was preceded by this concept of him being clinical but just ignorance on my part.

Another view of being "to the point" in interpretation: if the "point" of the music is emotion and it's played as such but being adhered to in regards to the score, maybe that's where his "sterility" comes in. Some listeners want to hear the emotion exaggerated and if it's not being done its "sterile"


I never feel like Pollini loves or enjoys the music he's playing, which is the main reason why I've cooled to him over the years. It feels like in trying to play the music faithfully, he omits the content.


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