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^^ Nice and interesting post! ^^

And, just a word or two about this part:

Originally Posted by pablobear
Now my favorites are simple: Cortot, Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Rubinstein/Richter/Michelangeli, and a pianist on youtube named truecrypt.

I loved seeing that, because truecrypt indeed is quite extraordinary -- both in the many great videos that he posts of great pianists of the past, and in his own playing.

And besides that, we've had some experience with him right here.

Some years ago, an out-of-this-world recording of Chopin's F minor Fantaisie was posted. I mean really out of this world -- up there with any performance of the piece ever, including everybody.
Turned out it was by truecrypt -- and that in fact the member who posted it was truecrypt himself (not using that name).
Imagine my surprise when it turned out further that he's someone I actually know -- someone who had been in the amateur competitions.
I knew that that he was terrific -- but I hadn't known he was quite like that.

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Nice post! I agree pretty much entirely, and it's what I've been trying to drive at as well.

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Originally Posted by Mark_C
^^ Nice and interesting post! ^^

And, just a word or two about this part:

Originally Posted by pablobear
Now my favorites are simple: Cortot, Horowitz, Rachmaninoff, Sofronitsky, Rubinstein/Richter/Michelangeli, and a pianist on youtube named truecrypt.

I loved seeing that, because truecrypt indeed is quite extraordinary -- both in the many great videos that he posts of great pianists of the past, and in his own playing.

And besides that, we've had some experience with him right here.

Some years ago, an out-of-this-world recording of Chopin's F minor Fantaisie was posted. I mean really out of this world -- up there with any performance of the piece ever, including everybody.
Turned out it was by truecrypt -- and that in fact the member who posted it was truecrypt himself (not using that name).
Imagine my surprise when it turned out further that he's someone I actually know -- someone who had been in the amateur competitions.
I knew that that he was terrific -- but I hadn't known he was quite like that.

Yeah, like I was listening to TONS of recordings from his channel. I saw that his Bacarolle was his most recent video, and I was like hmm, if this guy has such good taste in pianists, I wouldn't be surprised if he's very good himself... Then, instantly BAM, I was spellbound (I don't really like using adjectives like this, but I can't think of a better one). I've listened to others and there are definitely a few that are in his tier (Cortot, Horowitz, Lipatti, Rubinstein), but most of the others I've listened to besides his aren't as good, I prefer his the most (could be biased because first exposure, but, I think it's special)...


I didn't know that he was active in this forum? Does he still post here, I'd love to ask him some questions on how I can get better xD. I think I already know what I should be doing, and I think I just have to be patient at this point. It just really annoys me I sight read slowly, and if I was good at it I could learn stuff much more faster. I have the technique, but I'm missing out on playing the music, thankfully I can listen... But, I want to be a musician not a music listener xD...


It is good to see on this forum, that there are people who seek out this style. In real life, I haven't been able to find many yet, but, I know I will in the future. Most people who I talk to classical/piano about, I explain this to them, and most of them who aren't really that interested in it otherwise gain more interest when I explain to them the greatness of Cortot, Horowitz, Rach, Hoffman, Busoni, etc. compared to the pianists today. The thing is, I try not to be just appreciating them out of novelty or in an nostalgic sense, I really do try to find modern pianists who captivate me in a similar way. But, it's very hard to find. It will be helpful to me, when I keep completing full pieces, I will upload them here for criticism. I can also post excerpts of stuff that I shouldn't be doing, but, like I don't want to waste people's time too much xD.

Best


My gods are: Cortot, Horowitz, and Sofronitsky,

Started piano during COVID, hopefully I can play Rachmaninoff, Rubinstein, and Scriabin compositions one day...
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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
[quote=Sidokar]

Some pianists choose their repertoire very judiciously, for example Uchida - apart from one-off Chopin and Schoenberg CDs, it's Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, then later on Schumann. I think the surprise would be the same if suddenly she decides to record the Rachmaninov concertos, for example, because there is a perception she belongs to the classical Viennese school.

About Uchida, here is a quote from a 1988 NY Times article:

Quote
I played some [Rachmaninov] once, and it was a mistake .... So why bother doing something you can't do very well? Because if you don't understand it, you don't do it very well.

Uchida also did a fairly famous recording of the Debussy etudes. I've heard her in Messiaen's Oiseaux exotiques and a Kurtag piece on the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall.

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I just came across this video, and it seems apropos to this thread (although in a somewhat oblique way). I like the point made at the end that what these pianists were doing with scores was what composers of the Romantic era would have expected to happen to their music (whether they liked it or not is a different question).


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Very interesting video. That said unhapilly some of the recordings are so poor that all the color and harmonic flavor is lost. Thus it is impossible to evaluate the end result, in particular for the piano. Most of what can be analyzed is the rythmic and phrasing approach. To be honnest, I think any modern version is actually better than lets say Busoni version of the nocturne, as it is currently recorded.

There is no doubt that older recordings have that rythmic fluency (some of which could be due to the technology or lack of) which adds to the singing character but on the other hand, it gets tiring after a while and many passages seems botched or rushed, unfinished. The dark sounds adds to the unclarity.

I listened to another conference by Malcom Bilson, a great musician, who gave that example of singing in the Imn Grunen lied by Schubert. The version of Elisabeth Schumann is so free that she is rarely in rythm with the piano (or the piano with her), it is almost like a recitative. The piano is barely audible and obviously trying to catch up with her at best, accelerating or slowing down to recover and keep roughly in synch. That works about right in the recording because it is barely audible, but in a modern recording where everything is audible, it would create a lot of harmonic consistency issues. Below a modern version. Clearly the rythmic precision removes some of the naturalness and it sounds "cleaner" but on the other hand, we gain in nuances, harmony, nuances, .... Nothing is prefect. I think rythmic fluency is a good thing but has to be carefully balanced so that it does not become systematic and botched.




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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Below a modern version. Clearly the rythmic precision removes some of the naturalness and it sounds "cleaner" but on the other hand, we gain in nuances, harmony, nuances, .... Nothing is prefect. I think rythmic fluency is a good thing but has to be carefully balanced so that it does not become systematic and botched.



With all of its tempo fluctuations, the earlier version still clocks in at 2:32 minutes while the "modern version drags on for 4:41. Any perceived gains in nuances, harmony, etc. in the modern version are superseded, IMO, by the energy and freedom of the Schumann interpretation - which I much prefer. Perhaps I'm old school myself. ha I also feel that Schumann's accompanist does a superb job of keeping up and anticipating what she is going to do with the music thus reinforcing the naturalness of her interpretation.


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Originally Posted by wr
I just came across this video, and it seems apropos to this thread (although in a somewhat oblique way). I like the point made at the end that what these pianists were doing with scores was what composers of the Romantic era would have expected to happen to their music (whether they liked it or not is a different question).

Fascinating! Thanks for posting this.


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Originally Posted by CyberGene
[...] I don’t think Rubinstein is a charlatan. But he’s among my less favorite Chopin interpreters despite his huge popularity as such. Horowitz is closer to my taste.

I think that one reason Rubinstein gained popularity as an interpreter of Chopin among older lovers of piano music is: at the time that we, as a younger generation, were being exposed to Chopin's music, almost all of our access was through recordings, and recordings of major portions of Chopin's œuvre were produced by only a handful of pianists. These recordings constituted an expense that meant that comparisons with other pianists in similar repertoire were often beyond our means. I think that we were also influenced by so-called specialists who indicated that Rubinstein was himself a specialist in performing Chopin on records. Given that sort of incentive and having little opportunity to compare, we gravitated to and become accustomed to Rubinstein in Chopin. The same may have happened to those who ended up preferring Horowitz. Now, of course, it's easy to compare the two along with so many others.

Performance practices may also have undergone some change since the time when Rubinstein was considered preeminent among Chopin interpreters. That is not to deny that some prefer Horowitz over Rubinstein in similar material. In part, of course as CyberGene attests, it is a question of taste and I will add: how that taste was developed.

Today, of course, recordings of Chopin's music proliferate and access to them is so easy that there is so much choice that making judgements on some pianists' interpretations of Chopin boil down to preferring individual works by pianist X rather than to an overall appreciation of a given performer's reputation as a Chopin specialist as a whole.

Finally, are there pianists today, apart from those who produce individual CD recital programs of Chopin's music, who are considered exceptional performers, i.e. "specialists" of Chopin's music, either by today's standards or by those of previous generations?

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It seems undeniable that the first time we hear a piece of music (particularly in our youth) it can create a suitably strong impression such that we critically compare every future recording of a piece to the "original" version. Any additional positive memory associations which we hold from the time/situation when we first heard it can be entwined with the music forever, and may only be triggered by what we interpret as a "correct" rendition, which matches our memory of it.

The same can happen with live performances of music we have already heard, because the atmosphere, excitement and joy of the moment will colour our recollection of the music we heard.

This is human nature, I believe. Nothing to do with what era we happen to be born into. Everyone will wear rose-tinted spectacles at some point in their life. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with that.

The first time I heard Du Pre's Elgar cello concerto it really created a lasting impact, to the point that I tend to only listen to that version. This is not because I think she is necessarily better than any modern cellist...just that I have a particular affinity to that recording. As someone earlier mentioned...it felt "right" the first time I heard it, and made a very strong impression on me, so any differences can then sound "wrong" to my ears. They are not wrong of course, this is just my subconscious interpretation based on previous experience and my expectations.

Ultimately, if you are personally happy with just one recording does it matter? Sometimes the comfort of familiarity is more important than the discovery of the new and exciting.

One thing I would say...I don't believe that older people have a "better grasp of pianistic excellence" unless perhaps you are talking from a purely technical point of view, where experience may be helpful. "Excellence" for me is about creating an enjoyable experience for the listener. Nothing else. Music is fundamentally about the effect it has on you, the individual. If you like a piece of music played wrong, why force yourself to listen to someone playing it "right"...

A mother, for example, may truly believe that their child's version of fur elise is the best in the world because hearing it makes her happier than any other version. Who is e.g. Gould (who seems to me to be an example of a music snob) to argue with her based on her child's atrocious technique and terrible tempo choices?

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Originally Posted by Chris James
It seems undeniable that the first time we hear a piece of music (particularly in our youth) it can create a suitably strong impression such that we critically compare every future recording of a piece to the "original" version. Any additional positive memory associations which we hold from the time/situation when we first heard it can be entwined with the music forever, and may only be triggered by what we interpret as a "correct" rendition, which matches our memory of it.

The same can happen with live performances of music we have already heard, because the atmosphere, excitement and joy of the moment will colour our recollection of the music we heard.

This is human nature, I believe. Nothing to do with what era we happen to be born into. Everyone will wear rose-tinted spectacles at some point in their life.
Apart from a few pieces and one pianist in particular, none of my favourite recordings of well-known pieces are by the pianists whose recordings I heard in those pieces for the first time, otherwise I'd be worshipping at the feet of Rubinstein, Horowitz and Cliburn (as I mentioned in another thread, theirs were the only pianists whose LPs and cassettes were available when I was a kid, and I devoured all their recordings: Rubinstein in Beethoven and Brahms, anyone?)

For instance, my favourite recordings of almost all Chopin are by Zimerman, who only burst into the piano scene when I'd already heard many other pianists. But when I heard his debut recital in London (broadcast live on BBC Radio 3) of Brahms's 1st sonata and Chopin's 3rd, I was completely smitten, and - to date - still haven't heard any other pianist who comes remotely close to him in either composer.

Same for Pletnev in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky and........


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The posts about Rubinstein, including the relatively praising ones, don't mention what I think was the very main thing about him, and which IMO remains 'fairly unique.'
('quotation marks' because we're not supposed to have different degrees of unique) grin

the joy in his playing

To me (and many), nobody else ever has conveyed such a kind of joy in their playing. I would say that his reputation was 100% deserved.

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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Chris James
It seems undeniable that the first time we hear a piece of music (particularly in our youth) it can create a suitably strong impression such that we critically compare every future recording of a piece to the "original" version. Any additional positive memory associations which we hold from the time/situation when we first heard it can be entwined with the music forever, and may only be triggered by what we interpret as a "correct" rendition, which matches our memory of it.

The same can happen with live performances of music we have already heard, because the atmosphere, excitement and joy of the moment will colour our recollection of the music we heard.

This is human nature, I believe. Nothing to do with what era we happen to be born into. Everyone will wear rose-tinted spectacles at some point in their life.
Apart from a few pieces and one pianist in particular, none of my favourite recordings of well-known pieces are by the pianists whose recordings I heard in those pieces for the first time, otherwise I'd be worshipping at the feet of Rubinstein, Horowitz and Cliburn (as I mentioned in another thread, theirs were the only pianists whose LPs and cassettes were available when I was a kid, and I devoured all their recordings: Rubinstein in Beethoven and Brahms, anyone?)

For instance, my favourite recordings of almost all Chopin are by Zimerman, who only burst into the piano scene when I'd already heard many other pianists. But when I heard his debut recital in London (broadcast live on BBC Radio 3) of Brahms's 1st sonata and Chopin's 3rd, I was completely smitten, and - to date - still haven't heard any other pianist who comes remotely close to him in either composer.

Same for Pletnev in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov and Mussorgsky and........

To be fair I said it *can* create a strong impression. I didn't suggest that it does in every instance.

What's interesting though is why you have settled on Zimerman. Do you recollect the moment you first heard Zimerman playing Chopin, and what impact did that moment have in colouring your future choices regarding Chopin renditions?

EDIT: Sorry...you clearly already said you do recollect. And being smitten is certainly the sort of "habit forming" reaction I was alluding to.

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Originally Posted by Chris James
What's interesting though is why you have settled on Zimerman. Do you recollect the moment you first heard Zimerman playing Chopin, and what impact did that moment have in colouring your future choices regarding Chopin renditions?

EDIT: Sorry...you clearly already said you do recollect. And being smitten is certainly the sort of "habit forming" reaction I was alluding to.
The reason I was smitten when I heard him in Brahms and Chopin for the first time was because that's the way I'd play the music, if I had the technique to do so. I didn't get to attend any of his concerts until several years later. And I don't like him that much in Schubert sonatas.

Same for Pletnev, though he's a very different pianist - I heard him in several BBC broadcasts playing everything from Bach to Liszt to Grieg to Scriabin, and even when I take issue with some of his interpretative choices, I'm never less than intrigued with his playing.

Whereas with many other pianists, it's just like an all-purpose virtuosity.......

Listen to this rarely-performed Grieg, which is deliciously witty and colourful, dispatched with exquisite timing and - at the end - the most raucous conclusion, when all the revellers are inebriated grin:


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Originally Posted by Carey
With all of its tempo fluctuations, the earlier version still clocks in at 2:32 minutes while the "modern version drags on for 4:41. Any perceived gains in nuances, harmony, etc. in the modern version are superseded, IMO, by the energy and freedom of the Schumann interpretation - which I much prefer. Perhaps I'm old school myself. ha I also feel that Schumann's accompanist does a superb job of keeping up and anticipating what she is going to do with the music thus reinforcing the naturalness of her interpretation.


Of course, it is perfectly fine if you like her version better ! That said the very vast majority of versions are not slower than 4' and many go over 5' even some pretty old ones ! Schwarzkopf who is only one generation later (born 1915) and who was singing in the same time as E. Schumann in the 40s is taking the exact same time in 4.40 in her 1942 recording.

I would disagree with you on the dragging, but that is a matter of preferences. The pianist does a good job of trying to keep up with ES but there are a number of up and down which are unnecessary. And because the sound quality is so poor, the piano being barely audible, it is impossible to judge the overall musical result. In any case, if the tempo flexibility is musical, the mis-alignment with the piano is not.

The problem with these old recordings is that you dont know what is part of the interpretation and what is due to technical issues. There is another version of that same song from the same recording but remastered and it is way cleaner and more regular. I would assume that in reality a number of tempo fluctuations are probably due to the poor technology and speed fluctuation of the recording equipment. In the recordings that ES made in the late 40s she is naturaly regular and in sync with the piano. Similarly Schwarzkopf who was singing also in the 40s is similar to modern interpretations. So, as much as i admire the flexibility of the melodic line, I am not sure how much of that is completely natural. We are forgiving because of the dark and veiled sound but I am pretty sure that we would not tolerate anything close to that in any modern version.

BTW I could find a modern version of the same duration. It does not have the same intensity as ES but it has a certain freshness.


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It's also impossible to separate our feelings about old recordings — there is a nostalgia that some of us have for an era we never knew, there is a sense of the heroic or larger-than-life lives that many of these people had that we cannot separate from the music, etc. I love listening to Josef Hofmann, Schnabel, Casals, Gigli, early Walter, Oskar Fried, Myra Hess, and so many others — in part because I feel like I am reaching into the 19th century when I hear them, or because it immerses me in the first half of the 20th century and the world events surrounding them, or because of the respect and awe that my teachers and musicians I admire have had for them.

But I also like listening to old recordings because I think there was a diversity of interpretations in that world that has narrowed considerably since — it would have been impossible to learn piano in the last 70 years without being thoroughly immersed in other people's interpretations of the great composers, and I think that has narrowed the norms around playing considerably (as has increased expectations of note-perfectness). Among other things, most people in those days would have heard most music live, and much of the time it would have been amateurs, since every family of any means would have had a number of pianists and singers in it. So they would be accustomed to a wild range of performances of these pieces, and a concert of a great musician would be so above what they were used to listening to that it would be quite magical.

Whereas everyone in the last few generations are mostly accustomed to listening to professionals most of the time, and I think that has changed the context considerably. We (as listeners) have a much narrower range of how we think these pieces should sound and when we hear a performance or a new recording, we are comparing it more to the body of recordings of it that we've heard, rather than how others might have played it (or similar pieces) in their living room. And for those of us with a nostalgic bent (myself included), we grandfather in these old interpretations without forgiving new musicians the same extremes of interpretation, missed notes, or other things that could be considered faults.

If Schnabel were to be reincarnated and give a concert now as a 25-year old pianist, and play exactly the way he would have played in the 1930s, would anyone think particularly highly of it? It's impossible to say. I suspect not. I might not. I'm sure I would like some things about it, but if I'm being honest, I would probably think it was a bit over the top, a bit messy, and missing a lot of the subtleties I've come to expect. But suspecting this takes nothing away from the fact that I still cherish his recordings from the 1930s beyond measure. And that doesn't mean that modern players are better; it's more that tastes have changed — no one can play like Schnabel, and even if they could they wouldn't "get away" with it.

To ask a related question: if I were to go back in time and somehow prevent Beethoven from writing his Opus 109, and bring it to the present and release it as my own would anyone think much of it? It would sound derivative, dated, and probably just a cheap copy of Beethoven (and a slightly weird one at that) to anyone that bothered to give it a sight read. Context is so important to how we view these things, and we cannot view them without that because the context is literally the thing that taught us how to appreciate any of this in the first place.

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Originally Posted by Chris James
It seems undeniable that the first time we hear a piece of music (particularly in our youth) it can create a suitably strong impression such that we critically compare every future recording of a piece to the "original" version. Any additional positive memory associations which we hold from the time/situation when we first heard it can be entwined with the music forever, and may only be triggered by what we interpret as a "correct" rendition, which matches our memory of it.

The same can happen with live performances of music we have already heard, because the atmosphere, excitement and joy of the moment will colour our recollection of the music we heard.

This is human nature, I believe. Nothing to do with what era we happen to be born into. Everyone will wear rose-tinted spectacles at some point in their life. And there is nothing necessarily wrong with that.

The first time I heard Du Pre's Elgar cello concerto it really created a lasting impact, to the point that I tend to only listen to that version. This is not because I think she is necessarily better than any modern cellist...just that I have a particular affinity to that recording. As someone earlier mentioned...it felt "right" the first time I heard it, and made a very strong impression on me, so any differences can then sound "wrong" to my ears. They are not wrong of course, this is just my subconscious interpretation based on previous experience and my expectations.

Ultimately, if you are personally happy with just one recording does it matter? Sometimes the comfort of familiarity is more important than the discovery of the new and exciting

This explains so much of what I wanted to convey, for example when I spoke about attending Ashkenazy's recital with my father in the 60s. I particularly like "there is nothing necessarily wrong with that," because it's true. I do find it interesting, however, when younger people evince a passionate response to old recordings of long-dead artists. On the other hand, I would venture to guess that this is rarer than cases where I, for instance, suddenly find something extraordinary in young performers' playing. Being in Ft. Worth for The Complete Cliburn in 2013 and hearing every note played by every competitor was a dream come true for me. I can honestly say that some of the piano playing ranked way up there with some of my favorite oldies. Alessandro Deljavan, Beatrice Rana, Sarah Daneshpour, and Sean Chen definitely had a spark that I responded to (though interestingly two of them didn't even make the finals). I suspect only Beatrice has a chance of being someone who future generations will look back on the way some of us revere Arrau, Richter, or whoever. And that's only if she keeps on developing as an artist. Which leads me to another point. I don't believe I ever suggested that "old timers" are fixed in their ways and deaf to the accomplishments of today's youth. I would almost go as far as to say that the opposite is true, that a performance which really transforms our internalized notion of "the perfect rendition" of a work can surprise and delight someone of virtually any age. I, for one, love hearing new ideas and insights and I become irritated by obvious efforts to replicate old ones.


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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
It's also impossible to separate our feelings about old recordings — there is a nostalgia that some of us have for an era we never knew, there is a sense of the heroic or larger-than-life lives that many of these people had that we cannot separate from the music, etc. I love listening to Josef Hofmann, Schnabel, Casals, Gigli, early Walter, Oskar Fried, Myra Hess, and so many others — in part because I feel like I am reaching into the 19th century when I hear them, or because it immerses me in the first half of the 20th century and the world events surrounding them, or because of the respect and awe that my teachers and musicians I admire have had for them.

But I also like listening to old recordings because I think there was a diversity of interpretations in that world that has narrowed considerably since — it would have been impossible to learn piano in the last 70 years without being thoroughly immersed in other people's interpretations of the great composers, and I think that has narrowed the norms around playing considerably (as has increased expectations of note-perfectness). Among other things, most people in those days would have heard most music live, and much of the time it would have been amateurs, since every family of any means would have had a number of pianists and singers in it. So they would be accustomed to a wild range of performances of these pieces, and a concert of a great musician would be so above what they were used to listening to that it would be quite magical.

It is worth mentioning that not only are pianists of today usually immersed in other people's interpretations, they are often all immersed in the same few interpretations. And, to make it even stranger, those interpretations are often constructions made in a studio, rather that live performances for live audiences. For one somewhat extreme example, there was a whole generation of pianists who basically only listened to Gould's Bach. There was another group who tried to model themselves after Horowitz.

But I'd quibble a bit about all pianists of the last 70 years being immersed in other people's interpretations of the great composers, at least not from the beginning of their interest in classical music. There are always the ones who, for various reasons, didn't have much access to the recordings. And there are others who were hooked on sight-reading, and spent much of their time doing that rather than listening to others. And there are yet others who start so young and are so obsessed with it that they don't have much time left to listen to others.

I am not a professional pianist, or even close to it. But, just as another example - my first exposure to all of the Beethoven piano sonatas up through op. 28, plus the Waldstein, was through my own playing of them. So my main sense of them was really direct from the scores instead of from performances by others, which I think was both good and bad. I did have a teacher, but got little from her in regard to how to play the music. I had heard pianists in radio broadcasts playing the concertos, so had some idea of how others played those pieces, so there was that input as to Beethoven style, but it was limited.

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Whereas everyone in the last few generations are mostly accustomed to listening to professionals most of the time, and I think that has changed the context considerably. We (as listeners) have a much narrower range of how we think these pieces should sound and when we hear a performance or a new recording, we are comparing it more to the body of recordings of it that we've heard, rather than how others might have played it (or similar pieces) in their living room. And for those of us with a nostalgic bent (myself included), we grandfather in these old interpretations without forgiving new musicians the same extremes of interpretation, missed notes, or other things that could be considered faults.

I try to be open to present day musicians who take the sort of big musical risks the old ones did, if done in the right spirit. It needs to be genuine rather than an affectation, for one thing.

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If Schnabel were to be reincarnated and give a concert now as a 25-year old pianist, and play exactly the way he would have played in the 1930s, would anyone think particularly highly of it? It's impossible to say. I suspect not. I might not. I'm sure I would like some things about it, but if I'm being honest, I would probably think it was a bit over the top, a bit messy, and missing a lot of the subtleties I've come to expect. But suspecting this takes nothing away from the fact that I still cherish his recordings from the 1930s beyond measure. And that doesn't mean that modern players are better; it's more that tastes have changed — no one can play like Schnabel, and even if they could they wouldn't "get away" with it.

There is the issue of being "true to ones own time". But a big personality can overcome a lot of resistance. Lang Lang, for example, may not be in Schnabel's artistic league but he did win over plenty of people who initially thought he was just a musical charlatan. Of course, some remain unconvinced, but some were never convinced by Schnabel, either.

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To ask a related question: if I were to go back in time and somehow prevent Beethoven from writing his Opus 109, and bring it to the present and release it as my own would anyone think much of it? It would sound derivative, dated, and probably just a cheap copy of Beethoven (and a slightly weird one at that) to anyone that bothered to give it a sight read. Context is so important to how we view these things, and we cannot view them without that because the context is literally the thing that taught us how to appreciate any of this in the first place.

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Originally Posted by Jun-Dai
If Schnabel were to be reincarnated and give a concert now as a 25-year old pianist, and play exactly the way he would have played in the 1930s, would anyone think particularly highly of it? It's impossible to say. I suspect not. I might not. I'm sure I would like some things about it, but if I'm being honest, I would probably think it was a bit over the top, a bit messy, and missing a lot of the subtleties I've come to expect. But suspecting this takes nothing away from the fact that I still cherish his recordings from the 1930s beyond measure. And that doesn't mean that modern players are better; it's more that tastes have changed — no one can play like Schnabel, and even if they could they wouldn't "get away" with it.

One of the issue is that to a large extent we actually dont really know how he played. What we hear from his recordings (the Beethoven sonatas were recorded between 1932 and 1937) is rather poor. So what we hear is to an extent an imaginary idealized version we recreate in our head, as the real one is so harmonically poor that it is very difficult to evaluate what is the actual true musical result. We hear some elements of rythm and phrasing, but even those are also polluted by the technology limits of the time to an extent that is difficult to evaluate. Everything recorded before 1925 on acoustic 78 rpm (which were actually rarely 78 rpm) is even more questionable. The quality varies also a lot depending on who made it, the technology was emerging and difficult to master, so some recordings are way worse than others.

Recording on tapes started in 1947 which led to the 33 rpm technology much more reliable.

That there was more diversity in the interpretations, more flexibility, a closer connection with the composers is certain, and that the musical taste of the audience (much smaller than the current one) was also different, all that is a fact. But I think we also overinterpret what we hear. As we get closer to the recording of the 50s, we can see that they are getting closer and closer to modern interpretations.

Some of the more uniform aspect of modern interpretations is also due to our higher expectations in terms of ryhtmic acuracy and overall precision. That said, for Bach for example, there is an incredibly wide range of interpretations available far more diverse than anything recorded before 1950.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
That said, for Bach for example, there is an incredibly wide range of interpretations available far more diverse than anything recorded before 1950.

That is a very good point.

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