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Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'?

Posted By: Old Man

Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/24/12 04:18 PM

I finally had the pleasure of reading Harold C. Schonberg's "Horowitz: His Life and Music" while on vacation. Early in the book Schonberg quotes Horowitz regarding Alfred Cortot's playing.

Quote
His Chopin and Schumann were for me the best. His Schumann was fantastic. He had good taste and a good but not great technique, though he lost his technique in the last years of his life. He played a lot on the radio. I remember hearing him in many things. Once I visited Rachmaninoff in Switzerland at his house. When I walked in he was laughing so loud his false teeth were coming out. I asked him what was so funny.

"I have just been listening on the radio to Cortot playing all the Chopin etudes."

"That was so good?" I asked.

"Wonderful. But, you know, the most difficult of the etudes were the ones he played most 'musical.'"

Schonberg himself then goes on to elaborate on Rachmaninoff's use of the word "musical".
Quote
The word "musical" applied by virtuoso pianists to other pianists is often a code word meaning good musician, not so good fingers or, in baseball lingo, good field, no hit. Rachmaninoff was so amused because Cortot covered up his technical deficiencies by playing slowly in the hard passages. Critics and connoisseurs, taken in, automatically hailed the slow passages as "musical." So the more Cortot slowed up, the more everybody would say "How musical!" (When Horowitz told the story a sour look came over his face. "Today," he said, "that has become the thing. Everybody plays slow, pianists, singers, everybody, and that shows how musical they are. It is crazy, I tell you.")

So what think you? Were Rach and Horowitz being a bit smug, given their own prodigious technical abilities? Are you able to determine whether a pianist is playing a difficult passage slowly because he must, or because he's made a musical choice? Does it even matter to you? Do you agree with VH's comment (made many years ago) that everybody's playing slow? If you do, do you think this trend continues today?

I would find comments on any of the above most interesting. But, as always, feel free to digress. smile
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 04:35 PM

I disagree with how you seem to be reading these things. I don't think there's anything at all in there that suggests they were thinking of "musical" as "code" for "technically inept," and I really don't see how you're getting what you seem to be getting.

I can also say that I've never had any hint of the word being used that way in anything I've heard or read. Sometimes I've heard the word "musical" said (and used it myself) to describe someone who is very musical despite obvious limitations of technique, usually because of not having had much training or serious study in playing the piano, but it wasn't code; it was a recognition of the person's fine musicianship. And I've certainly heard a lot of technically proficient pianists (especially amateur) rightly described as not-very-musical. But either thing being a code word or euphemism for the other? Not as far as I've ever come across. I think the words are generally used for just what they are, and pretty fairly.


P.S. Pardon this digression.... grin ....just a hint about "quotation marks" in titles of threads:

It's best to avoid them if possible, because they interfere with the navigation of the thread. Usually when we click on a thread, we are put to where the new posts begin, but if the thread title has quotation marks, we always keep getting put to the first post of the thread. (I think Damon was the one who figured out that quotation marks are the culprit; there might also be other things that can interfere with the navigation but "quotes" is the only thing I know of specifically.) The way I get around this is by using 'single quotes' in the titles. That doesn't seem to mess up the navigation. Why "quotes" would do so, I have no idea, but they do. smile
Posted By: RonaldSteinway

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 04:48 PM

I agree that people usually refer people who have good ideas and musical but lacking of strong technique as musical pianists. Most of the people will just stop at that, and will not say "BUT", because people do not want to sound negative. People refer to a person who is strong technically and musically etc as good pianist/excellent pianist, and very rarely do they add additional qualifications in their statement.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:02 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
I disagree with how you seem to be reading these things. I don't think there's anything at all in there that suggests they were thinking of "musical" as "code" for "technically inept," and I really don't see how you're getting what you seem to be getting.

Mark, I'm not the one "reading these things" this way. I'm quoting Harold Schonberg, who's explaining to the reader how the term was used among "virtuoso pianists", as he calls them. In fact, I was quite taken aback by Schonberg's statement, and was simply interested in learning how today's pianists would react to his description. (Although the book's not that old. Published in 1992).

Personally, I'm much more inclined to be put off by works that are played too fast, rather than too slow. I prefer to have a chance to savor the melodies and harmonies within music (within certain acceptable tempo boundaries, of course), and too fast a reading can sometimes obscure the true beauty of a passage. So you would never hear me saying that "musical" was code for "technically deficient". But Schonberg (and apparently Rach and VH) did. And I found that interesting.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word musical really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C

P.S. Pardon this digression.... grin ....just a hint about "quotation marks" in titles of threads:

It's best to avoid them if possible, because they interfere with the navigation of the thread. Usually when we click on a thread, we are put to where the new posts begin, but if the thread title has quotation marks, we always keep getting put to the first post of the thread. (I think Damon was the one who figured out that quotation marks are the culprit; there might also be other things that can interfere with the navigation but "quotes" is the only thing I know of specifically.) The way I get around this is by using 'single quotes' in the titles. That doesn't seem to mess up the navigation. Why "quotes" would do so, I have no idea, but they do. smile

Ooops. Sorry, Mark, I just noticed your addendum. Didn't know that quotes would cause these problems. I wish there was a way to edit the Subject. Thanks for the heads up.
Posted By: LadyChen

Re: Is the word musical really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:11 PM

I get told all the time that my playing is musical and that I have good interpretive skills, and to be honest, I've always just assumed they meant my technique was lacking! (and it is)
Posted By: BruceD

Re: Is the word musical really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:16 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
[...] I wish there was a way to edit the Subject. [...]


If you are still within the time allowed to edit your post, you can also edit the title.

Regards,
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:17 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
....I'm not the one "reading these things" this way. I'm quoting Harold Schonberg, who's explaining to the reader how the term was used among "virtuoso pianists", as he calls them....

Oh OK -- I had sort of missed this part in the quote from him:

"The word "musical" applied by virtuoso pianists to other pianists is often a code word meaning good musician, not so good fingers...."

....and so that means I'm disagreeing with him!
Which I don't do lightly because I was and am a huge fan of his.

I simply don't read the quote that he uses as his data base as suggesting this, and as I said, I've never experienced anything suggesting that kind of usage.

Quote
In fact, I was quite taken aback by Schonberg's statement, and was simply interested in learning how today's pianists would react to his description. (Although the book's not that old. Published in 1992).

BTW the original edition (which I think would have had the same thing) is about 30 years older. And BTW I'd guess that "yesterday's" pianists would have felt he was mistaken too.

Quote
....you would never hear me saying that "musical" was code for "technically deficient". But Schonberg (and apparently Rach and VL) did....

I don't see that they did, and I don't think they did, at all.


BTW, I'm pretty sure you CAN go back and edit the thread title! (As I see Bruce also said.)

edit: Nice -- you did it! smile
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/24/12 05:47 PM

Looking at what Rachmaninoff and Horowitz said, and why I think Schonberg was mistaken:

First, the quote from Horowitz:

Once I visited Rachmaninoff in Switzerland at his house. When I walked in he was laughing so loud his false teeth were coming out. I asked him what was so funny.

"I have just been listening on the radio to Cortot playing all the Chopin etudes."

"That was so good?" I asked.

"Wonderful. But, you know, the most difficult of the etudes were the ones he played most 'musical.'"


Later, Schonberg's comment:

....Rachmaninoff was so amused because Cortot covered up his technical deficiencies by playing slowly in the hard passages. Critics and connoisseurs, taken in, automatically hailed the slow passages as "musical." So the more Cortot slowed up, the more everybody would say "How musical!" (When Horowitz told the story a sour look came over his face. "Today," he said, "that has become the thing. Everybody plays slow, pianists, singers, everybody, and that shows how musical they are. It is crazy, I tell you.")


That first story can be seen various ways, none of which IMO much suggest what Schonberg is gathering. I think mainly Rachmaninoff was just having fun with it and getting off a good line -- yes indeed, involving some disdain about Cortot's sloppiness but little if anything more in terms of any specifics about reality. (And BTW, a little off the subject but I also disagree with what seems to be a basic premise here about Cortot's "technique": I don't agree that his technique was deficient; what was deficient was his practicing, and so during much of career his playing was full of inaccuracies. That's different. In fact, Schonberg talks in the book about this being the basic thing, but I guess he either forgot about that grin or just didn't recognize this distinction.)

About that last quote from Horowitz: I've seen that quote in various places and may have also seen video of Horowitz saying basically the same thing -- and I don't think the quote had anything at all to do with technical deficiencies on anyone's part. Of course I see how the quote can seem to be about this same thing, especially in the context where it's being put here -- and in some instances Horowitz may have even said it consecutively with some of the other stuff, but IMO in that case it would have been a slight digression from the other thing.

He was just expressing his feeling about how in some circles, slow playing sometimes seemed automatically to be equated with greater musicianship (or really more accurately, profundity), which did go on for a time -- especially, I think, among "the Russians" and their devotees, and perhaps especially in Schubert and Beethoven, and especially in slower movements -- and which had nothing to do with technical deficiency.
Posted By: sandalholme

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 05:49 PM

Horowitz of course said that if you want to be more than a virtuoso [= musical?] , then you have first to be a virtuoso.

I'm with Lady Chen re my own playing: hopefully musical, because I'm certainly not a virtuoso. Given the choice between the two, I'd rather be regarded as musical but with limited technique, than having a marvellous technique but not a great deal of musicianship.

Then again, I may be neither.

Re professionals, I'd also rather hear a professional pianist thrill me musically with a few wrong notes or signs of strain (rare these days), than a flawless performance that leaves me cold. I also prefer to hear live performances than recordings.

On topic (?), I imagine that some virtuosi may look down on those with lesser techniques and damn them with the faint praise of being musical.

Re Cortot, nearly on topic, one of his pupils despaired of playing Cortot's piano musically as it was in such a bad state, then listened in amazement as Cortot conjured beautiful sounds from it.
Posted By: Otis S

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/24/12 06:11 PM

Another key point is that good technique and musicality are intimately intertwined. Good technique is often needed not just to play the notes correctly and at the right tempo but also to play in a musically expressive way. When you hear a really good pianist play a piece, a key reason the pianist can make the piece sound very expressive musically is a result of having superior technique and a proper knowledge of how to apply it to the piece at hand.
Posted By: RonaldSteinway

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 06:21 PM

Originally Posted by sandalholme


Re professionals, I'd also rather hear a professional pianist thrill me musically with a few wrong notes or signs of strain (rare these days), than a flawless performance that leaves me cold. I also prefer to hear live performances than recordings.


Professionals do not do unprofessional things such as strain, uneveness. People can only play musically when they play within their capacity. If one struggles with the technique, one will have problem to play musically. Don't consider small mistakes here and there as technical problems. It is just an unclean playing.

My teacher always points out the unprofessional things in my playing, and tries to get rid of them if possible. He always said those unprofessional things that most likely prevent me/people to advance to the second round. Incorrect musically is a debatable thing but unprofessional technique (uneven scale, dirty pedalling,etc) is fact.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/24/12 06:22 PM

Not everyone use "musical" in the same way. In the case of the Horowitz quotes, I'd guess he was just throwing in a little jab at Cortot in his line about the Chopin Etudes. For some, "musical" implies perhaps lacking in technique and for others this is not the case.

What I find annoying is the opposite side of the coin where many seem to imply or assume that having fantastic technique means a lack of musicality.

I don't think there were any great pianists who didn't have an enormously high degree of both technical ability and musicality. I'm not that interested in whether a pianist is a 10 on the technical scale or only a 9.5.
Posted By: ando

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 06:35 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C


P.S. Pardon this digression.... grin ....just a hint about "quotation marks" in titles of threads:

It's best to avoid them if possible, because they interfere with the navigation of the thread. Usually when we click on a thread, we are put to where the new posts begin, but if the thread title has quotation marks, we always keep getting put to the first post of the thread. (I think Damon was the one who figured out that quotation marks are the culprit; there might also be other things that can interfere with the navigation but "quotes" is the only thing I know of specifically.) The way I get around this is by using 'single quotes' in the titles. That doesn't seem to mess up the navigation. Why "quotes" would do so, I have no idea, but they do. smile

Pardon this perpetuation of a digression...

This thread navigates perfectly for me. I think this theory of quotation marks needs more work.

I have noticed that some threads don't navigate properly but I've never noticed a common factor between them. I think it's some kind of database error when the post is first submitted.
Posted By: LadyChen

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 06:38 PM

Originally Posted by Otis S
Another key point is that good technique and musicality are intimately intertwined. Good technique is often needed not just to play the notes correctly and at the right tempo but also to play in a musically expressive way. When you hear a really good pianist play a piece, a key reason the pianist can make the piece sound very expressive musically is a result of having superior technique and a proper knowledge of how to apply it to the piece at hand.


This is key to me. You need to be musical to be able to hear how a phrase should sound in your mind's ear, but if you don't have the technique to bring what's in your head into reality and execute it physically, no one is going to know how musical you are.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 06:38 PM

Originally Posted by ando
....This thread navigates perfectly for me. I think this theory of quotation marks needs more work.

No it doesn't -- you missed some stuff here. ha


(It's working right because he fixed it after I pointed it out.)
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 07:39 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by ando
....This thread navigates perfectly for me. I think this theory of quotation marks needs more work.

No it doesn't -- you missed some stuff here. ha


(It's working right because he fixed it after I pointed it out.)

You're right. I did. Thanks to BruceD and yourself.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/24/12 07:47 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C

About that last quote from Horowitz: I've seen that quote in various places and may have also seen video of Horowitz saying basically the same thing -- and I don't think the quote had anything at all to do with technical deficiencies on anyone's part. Of course I see how the quote can seem to be about this same thing, especially in the context where it's being put here -- and in some instances Horowitz may have even said it consecutively with some of the other stuff, but IMO in that case it would have been a slight digression from the other thing.

I agree. I shouldn't have described Horowitz as equating slower playing with deficiencies. But I do think one could infer that, based on Schonberg's arrangement of these various quotes plus his own commentary. This led me to think that perhaps he (Schonberg) had some firsthand knowledge about the prevailing attitudes of that time.
Posted By: RonaldSteinway

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 08:00 PM

Originally Posted by LadyChen
This is key to me. You need to be musical to be able to hear how a phrase should sound in your mind's ear, but if you don't have the technique to bring what's in your head into reality and execute it physically, no one is going to know how musical you are.


One may not be technically good, but he is able to kind of expressing good musicallity and beautiful ideas, and people are usually able to notice the intentions. This is when people will say that the playing is musical....blah...blah..blah. Basically, they are saying we understand your intentions but you just cannot do it well. The good thing is that people still can recognize the intention. It is much better than if people say that we have no musical sense whatsoever!
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 08:28 PM

Originally Posted by LadyChen
This is key to me. You need to be musical to be able to hear how a phrase should sound in your mind's ear, but if you don't have the technique to bring what's in your head into reality and execute it physically, no one is going to know how musical you are.

You describe me perfectly. Everything remains in my "mind's ear" but can go no farther. But I swear I'm a very musical guy. grin

Seriously, I sometimes read in this forum how the technical aspects are not what makes a piece difficult, but playing it in a musical way. Bah, humbug! Wouldn't I love to be able to play the Chopin etudes, only to sweat bullets over "Der Dichter Spricht" because I must make it "musical". I'd give away all my earthly possessions to be plagued with such a problem.
Posted By: LadyChen

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 08:56 PM

Haha, I'm with you, Old Man!
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 09:38 PM

If a very high level technique was necessary to play musically, then no one could use "musical" to describe someone with musical understanding but less than ideal technique.

I think one can judge a person's musicality quite well even if they're technique is lacking. This is not the same as saying someone lacking in technique will be able to perfectly express all their musical ideas. Nor is it the same thing as saying that if someone's technical level is tremendously below what's needed for a particular piece, one will be able to judge their musicality.

I think Cortot is a good example of all this. Most seem to agree that he had very good technique, but due to lack of practice or the smaller emphasis on note perfect playing during his lifetime his recordings can show some technical weaknesses. But most praise his musicality very highly.

If course, if a beginner is attempting to play the Liszt Sonata, one probably wouldn't be able to judge their musicality.

Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 09:52 PM

If the statement

"If a person is musical, then he is technically deficient."

was true, then the statement

"If a person is not technically deficient, then he is not musical"
would also have to be true.

I don't think either statement is true.

Posted By: Otis S

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 09:59 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
Wouldn't I love to be able to play the Chopin etudes, only to sweat bullets over "Der Dichter Spricht" because I must make it "musical". I'd give away all my earthly possessions to be plagued with such a problem.


The Chopin Etudes require great musicality in addition to superb technique to really sound good. Many of them (if not all) arguably present more musical difficulties than Schumann's "Der Dichter Spricht". A purely mechanical interpretation playing all of the notes correctly at a fast tempo will not result in a satisfying performance of the Chopin etudes. A key aspect that makes Chopin's etudes so amazing is that Mr. Chopin was able to produce great music out of a form that had previously focused almost purely on building technique. This is particularly evident when one compares Chopin's etudes to those of Carl Czerny, for example.

Of course, there are also many great works by Schumann (e.g. Fantasie, Carnaval, piano concerto, etc.) which require both great technique and a good musical sense to play well.
Posted By: dsch

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 10:44 PM

I agree with the thoughts presented by the original poster. Many of us tend to fixate on the coldness of technically perfect artistry (Pollini et al.) while longing for just a tad more imperfection which is often perceived as musicality.

It's more than just rubato that we want, although we are acutely aware of imperfections in tempi.

Somehow emotions are heightened by imperfections. A little bit is necessary for the most satisfying performances while too many make for an abject failure.

It's a fine line.

I pity and admire those pianists who have found a happy medium. They are putting in long hours, for sure--a lot more than what I can put in.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 11:03 PM

Originally Posted by dsch
I agree with the thoughts presented by the original poster. Many of us tend to fixate on the coldness of technically perfect artistry (Pollini et al.) while longing for just a tad more imperfection which is often perceived as musicality.
I don't think technical perfection implies coldness. Most, or at least the big majority of the great pianists were technically perfect or close to it and not all of them were I'd call cold.

I do think that technical perfection combined with an apparent effortlessness can, for me, sometimes give the impression of coldness.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 11:12 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
....I think Cortot is a good example of all this. Most seem to agree that he had very good technique, but due to lack of practice or the smaller emphasis on note perfect playing during his lifetime his recordings can show some technical weaknesses....

I'm glad to see you saying that (it's what I think), but my impression has been that it's a pretty widespread (mistaken) belief that his technique wasn't very good.

Quote
If the statement
"If a person is musical, then he is technically deficient."
was true, then the statement
"If a person is not technically deficient, then he is not musical"
would also have to be true....
I don't think either statement is true.

Cool -- the contrapositive!! smile

I don't think I've come across anyone giving such an example since high school.

Apparently it's such a rare term (oddly) that my Firefox spell-check doesn't even recognize it!
Posted By: tomasino

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/24/12 11:51 PM

Going back to the original post, sounds to me like Horowitz was being ironic. Simple as that.

Tomasino
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 01:24 AM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I don't think technical perfection implies coldness. Most, or at least the big majority of the great pianists were technically perfect or close to it and not all of them were I'd call cold.

I do think that technical perfection combined with an apparent effortlessness can, for me, sometimes give the impression of coldness.

I couldn't agree more.

A perfect example being Mr. Horowitz himself. My favorite pianist of all time. Yet, some critics (including my parents) termed him a mere technical wizard, a machine. I never understood that, even as a teenager. His music making spoke to me more profoundly than anyone else's. Not that his contemporaries were any less "great", but personally, I found his playing to be as near perfect as we mortals can aspire to, both technically and musically.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 02:13 AM

Originally Posted by Otis S
Originally Posted by Old Man
Wouldn't I love to be able to play the Chopin etudes, only to sweat bullets over "Der Dichter Spricht" because I must make it "musical". I'd give away all my earthly possessions to be plagued with such a problem.


The Chopin Etudes require great musicality in addition to superb technique to really sound good. Many of them (if not all) arguably present more musical difficulties than Schumann's "Der Dichter Spricht". A purely mechanical interpretation playing all of the notes correctly at a fast tempo will not result in a satisfying performance of the Chopin etudes. A key aspect that makes Chopin's etudes so amazing is that Mr. Chopin was able to produce great music out of a form that had previously focused almost purely on building technique. This is particularly evident when one compares Chopin's etudes to those of Carl Czerny, for example.

Of course, there are also many great works by Schumann (e.g. Fantasie, Carnaval, piano concerto, etc.) which require both great technique and a good musical sense to play well.

Well, actually I was musing out loud, expressing my envy for those of you who have the luxury of even considering things like interpretation, while I'm still stuck on how where to place my posterior on the bench. grin

But I agree with you about the Chopin etudes. They are musical masterpieces unto themselves, and not mere studies, or exercises. And I thought that long before I ever discovered what the word "etude" meant.

I might cut poor Czerny a wee bit of slack, however. Compared to Hanon, he's Beethoven. laugh
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 03:22 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man

I might cut poor Czerny a wee bit of slack, however. Compared to Hanon, he's Beethoven. laugh


Comparing most of the Czerny studies with Chopin's is unfair, I think. AFAIK, for the most part, Czerny wasn't attempting to write genuine concert music in his studies, but was just making doing technical work a little more pleasant. Plus, he had severe insomnia, and he used writing studies as a productive way to pass sleepless hours. It occurs to me that he might even have used them to help make him get sleepy, which would help account for the sometimes mindless effect they seem to have. At any rate, his actual concert music is a whole different animal, and can be quite interesting to hear. Speaking of which, Horowitz played a variation set of Czerny's that's a lot of fun.

Better comparisons might be to various more musically ambitious etudes from Clemeti, Cramer, Hummel, and Moscheles (Chopin learned a lot from about the writing concert etudes from some of those guys, I think).

And Hanon wasn't trying to write etudes - they are just finger exercises.
Posted By: boo1234

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 03:39 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man
I finally had the pleasure of reading Harold C. Schonberg's "Horowitz: His Life and Music" while on vacation. Early in the book Schonberg quotes Horowitz regarding Alfred Cortot's playing.

Quote
His Chopin and Schumann were for me the best. His Schumann was fantastic. He had good taste and a good but not great technique, though he lost his technique in the last years of his life. He played a lot on the radio. I remember hearing him in many things. Once I visited Rachmaninoff in Switzerland at his house. When I walked in he was laughing so loud his false teeth were coming out. I asked him what was so funny.

"I have just been listening on the radio to Cortot playing all the Chopin etudes."

"That was so good?" I asked.

"Wonderful. But, you know, the most difficult of the etudes were the ones he played most 'musical.'"

Schonberg himself then goes on to elaborate on Rachmaninoff's use of the word "musical".
Quote
The word "musical" applied by virtuoso pianists to other pianists is often a code word meaning good musician, not so good fingers or, in baseball lingo, good field, no hit. Rachmaninoff was so amused because Cortot covered up his technical deficiencies by playing slowly in the hard passages. Critics and connoisseurs, taken in, automatically hailed the slow passages as "musical." So the more Cortot slowed up, the more everybody would say "How musical!" (When Horowitz told the story a sour look came over his face. "Today," he said, "that has become the thing. Everybody plays slow, pianists, singers, everybody, and that shows how musical they are. It is crazy, I tell you.")

So what think you? Were Rach and Horowitz being a bit smug, given their own prodigious technical abilities? Are you able to determine whether a pianist is playing a difficult passage slowly because he must, or because he's made a musical choice? Does it even matter to you? Do you agree with VH's comment (made many years ago) that everybody's playing slow? If you do, do you think this trend continues today?

I would find comments on any of the above most interesting. But, as always, feel free to digress. smile



VH and Rach were people and not saints, so maybe they were being snarky about things. Who among us hasn't given out a back handed "compliment" every now and then?
Posted By: Otis S

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 04:24 AM

Originally Posted by wr


Better comparisons might be to various more musically ambitious etudes from Clemeti, Cramer, Hummel, and Moscheles (Chopin learned a lot from about the writing concert etudes from some of those guys, I think).


What are specific examples of these musically ambitious etudes which predated Chopin's op. 10 etudes?
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 05:19 AM

Originally Posted by Otis S
Originally Posted by wr


Better comparisons might be to various more musically ambitious etudes from Clemeti, Cramer, Hummel, and Moscheles (Chopin learned a lot from about the writing concert etudes from some of those guys, I think).


What are specific examples of these musically ambitious etudes which predated Chopin's op. 10 etudes?


Oh, say, for example, the suites within Clementi's Gradus - some of which would work quite well as concert pieces. Or many of Moscheles' op. 70 (some of which seem fairly clearly to have been inspiration for Chopin).

Also, what I said was that they were musically ambitious relative to most of Czerny's, which has a slightly different meaning than simply saying they were musically ambitious.

Posted By: sandalholme

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 10:53 AM

I mentioned "strain" as I believe, for late Beethoven certainly, a perfectly executed (technically and musically) performance may miss what Beethoven is actually trying to communicate. String players know that the "reaching for the impossible" seems to be built into the late quartets. Beethoven, at the end, seems to be trying to reach beyond what human beings can achieve, let alone his instruments.

So, no-one can reduce their ability at will and all professionals will strive to play as musically as possible. I just wonder if, in late Beethoven, a pianist who could play these works easily might gain something by playing them when not fully under the hands, after a gap. In other words, leave something to be striven after.

I don't expect many to agree, but this is my perspective on late Beethoven.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 10:58 AM

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard great pianists and teachers say that musicianship and technique are inseparable. Which isn't to say that some people may be great technicians but have little of musical substance to say. But what is not in doubt is that if you don't have the technique, any amount of musicianship counts for nothing, because you don't have the equipment to convey what the composer asks, and what you want to bring to the music.

Personally, I'd far rather hear a rampaging virtuoso bashing his way through virtuosic transcriptions, playing louder & faster than anyone, than someone playing at the limit of his technique with uneven passagework, slowing down at difficult passages (masquerading as 'agogic hesitations'...), plenty of small mishaps etc, which make me feel very uneasy, waiting for him to fall flat on his face. At least, with the former, I can just sit back and revel in the pyrotechnics, just as I sat back and watched the Olympians performing amazing feats of speed and power recently grin.

But all great pianists - including Cortot - has (or had) great technique, commensurate with the repertoire they perform. Someone who doesn't have great octave technique wouldn't be playing Liszt or Rachmaninoff, but could be a world-beater in the Viennese classics, for example, if they chose the works wisely. (I've heard well-known pianists who struggled - or even cheated - in Schubert's Wanderer Fantasie in the notorious octave section near the end of the first 'movement'...).

Saying that a pianist plays with 'great musicality' or that he has 'good musicianship' without mentioning his technique, however, is often damning with faint praise....
Posted By: Lemon Pledge

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 12:33 PM

"Musical," as applied to classical pianists, is a nearly vacuous word. Maybe its usage was different in the past, but currently it doesn't seem to mean much. (The neo-noun "musicality" always makes me cringe a little). The most banal playing will be called musical if the pianist has learned to arch and taper his phrases, to apply predictable and "tasteful" rubato, to balance the melody and accompaniment, to avoid extremes of tempo and mood, etc.

And yes, "musical" is sometimes offered as faint praise, when more specific and flattering adjectives aren't readily available.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 12:36 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by pianoloverus


If the statement
"If a person is musical, then he is technically deficient."
was true, then the statement
"If a person is not technically deficient, then he is not musical"
would also have to be true....
I don't think either statement is true.

Cool -- the contrapositive!! smile

I don't think I've come across anyone giving such an example since high school.

Apparently it's such a rare term (oddly) that my Firefox spell-check doesn't even recognize it!

Please, guys, I'm getting flashbacks. I spent my high school years in a seminary, and the rector was our geometry teacher, and he was a very scary person. And I'd completely forgotten words like inverse, converse, contrapositive. Please, no more!
Posted By: Chopinlover49

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 02:28 PM

If being musical is the exact opposite of having great technique, I must be a musical genius! LOL. Actually, I think the combination of technical wizardry and musical sensitivity is what we look for in a great pianist. We all have our own sense of how this appears which is why some adore Pollini and I do not. I love Horowitz, warts and all, because most of the time he has both. Rubinstein had a noble, polished sound, but not quite there until his later years when it blossomed. Why is it 80 year old pianists shine even though their fingers start to betray them? Musicality. In the younger set, I think Perhia is the perfect combination but for some reason he gets less attention than many others. Argerich, in her later years, also has it all. In her youth, fire, but not as much sensitivity. And so on, and so on. Of course, no one agrees about any of this. We all have our favorites and with good reason, as there is no right way to hear the music. Even Chopin played most of his pieces differently depending on his mood, I am told. Which version is right?
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 02:33 PM

Originally Posted by bennevis
I've lost count of the number of times I've heard great pianists and teachers say that musicianship and technique are inseparable.
I think they meant both are needed but not "inseparable" as one can't exist without the other.

Great technique certainly doesn't imply great musicianship. And great musicianship can exist without great technique(although if one was playing a piece way beyond one's technique then one's musicianship might get lost in the technical struggle). But both are needed for a great performance.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 04:08 PM

Originally Posted by wr
And Hanon wasn't trying to write etudes - they are just finger exercises.

Agreed. Pianistic jumping jacks. And probably good for us. Boring, nonetheless.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 04:53 PM

Thought I'd add another interesting tidbit from Harold Schonberg's book ("Horowitz: His Life and Music"), that tends to bolster Horowitz's statement that performance tempos were slowing down. Schonberg is comparing performance times of the Brahms No. 1 D minor piano concerto.

Quote
The last five decades have seen tempos becoming slower and slower. Toscanini and Horowitz perform the concerto in 38 minutes, 56 seconds. The Walter/Horowitz performance comes in at 40 minutes, 42 seconds, By today's (1992) standards, those tempos are not only alarmingly fast; they also will be considered unmusical in many quarters. Toscanini set the tempos for all of his performances. Walter could be more flexible when working with a soloist.

It is hard to come by accurate timings of concert performances in the 1930s, but the fact that neither Downes nor Gilman complained about the tempo of the Brahms in their reviews, or even mentioned it, suggests that in the mid-1930s the Toscanini and Walter approaches were the norm. Three decades later, in the mid 1960s, such pianists as Rudolf Firkusny, Arthur Rubinstein, Van Cliburn, and John Ogdon were timed at between 44 and 46 minutes. In the 1980s Krystian Zimerman, Daniel Barenboim, and Claudio Arrau were running from 48 to over 50 minutes. At those tempos the Brahms D minor Concerto sounds like a different piece from the one that Horowitz with Toscanini and Walter had played fifty years earlier.

It does make one wonder what Brahms concerto we are listening to today, and which of the above Brahms himself would have preferred. As I said to Mark earlier, I'm not fond of music that is rushed, so speaking for myself, I can't imagine liking how it was played in the 1930s. On the other hand, I see a recording by Gould and Bernstein that clocks in at over 53 minutes. Now that must be a truly "musical" performance! grin
Posted By: celegorma

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 05:20 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dsch
I agree with the thoughts presented by the original poster. Many of us tend to fixate on the coldness of technically perfect artistry (Pollini et al.) while longing for just a tad more imperfection which is often perceived as musicality.
I don't think technical perfection implies coldness. Most, or at least the big majority of the great pianists were technically perfect or close to it and not all of them were I'd call cold.

I do think that technical perfection combined with an apparent effortlessness can, for me, sometimes give the impression of coldness.


I think part of human nature is imperfection. Humans appreciate imperfection and identify with it, therefore we may be more emotionally aroused by a performance with some wrong notes than one that is perfect, even if both performances are similar in other aspects.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 05:31 PM

I think that in slow music, past pianists used to play faster (listen to Gieseking's Debussy for instance), but not necessarily in fast music. These days people are already living life in the fast lane so there's no need for speed (to misquote Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun' grin), except that if you have the chops, you flaunt it in fast music....
Posted By: Chopinlover49

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 05:38 PM

Maybe in the real early days of recordings, some short works were performed as quickly as possible to squeeze them onto one side of a 78 (or cynlinder, for that matter!) I know that was an issue in jazz and popular music. However, for a concerto, they just used multiple disks. I have some of that stuff in my collection. Kind of jarring today. Of course, none of this has anything to do with live performance.

I also remember reading about the difference in styles of the "Golden Age" pianists where taking small liberties with the score was expected so they could show off their individuality or their chops. Today this is frowned on and we even see performances on period, or period-like, instruments. (See the tuner site for discussions on the difficulty of restoring really early pianos and fortepianos due to lack of sinmilar materials and parts. Very informative and interesting.)
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 05:38 PM

Originally Posted by celegorma
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by dsch
I agree with the thoughts presented by the original poster. Many of us tend to fixate on the coldness of technically perfect artistry (Pollini et al.) while longing for just a tad more imperfection which is often perceived as musicality.
I don't think technical perfection implies coldness. Most, or at least the big majority of the great pianists were technically perfect or close to it and not all of them were I'd call cold.

I do think that technical perfection combined with an apparent effortlessness can, for me, sometimes give the impression of coldness.


I think part of human nature is imperfection. Humans appreciate imperfection and identify with it, therefore we may be more emotionally aroused by a performance with some wrong notes than one that is perfect, even if both performances are similar in other aspects.
When I used to regularly go to the great pianists series at Carnegie Hall, I can't recall hearing any of those pianists in maybe 100 concerts making an obvious mistake. For me, the only time technical perfection can be a possible "negative" is if it's combined with a certain type of cool or aloof on stage personality. For me, pianists who fall in this category are quite rare, but I'm thinking of ones like Michelangeli, Pollini, and Hamelin.
Posted By: Hank Drake

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/25/12 05:50 PM

Originally Posted by Chopinlover49
Maybe in the real early days of recordings, some short works were performed as quickly as possible to squeeze them onto one side of a 78 (or cynlinder, for that matter!)


There have been occasions when this was the case. For example, when Toscanini recorded Mendelssohn's Wedding March, he pushed the tempo so it would fit onto a single 78rpm side. But the two Horowitz examples (with Toscanini and Walter) mentioned above were not studio recordings - they were from concerts recorded off the air by amateurs.

By the way, if you want fast, try Rubinstein's early recording fo the Brahms 2nd Concerto with Barbirolli. THAT'S fast (but it works, imo).
Posted By: Chopinlover49

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 06:04 PM

I will not say who the artist was, but my daughter and I went to see this individual play the Rach 2, one of my childhood favorites, and even though we sat just a few rows from the stage and on the piano side, he played so softly that I could not hear many of the notes. I was extremely disappointed. This was at the Eastman Theater in Rochester, NY, and the rest of the concert, which was symphonic, was wonderful. I don't know if he was tired, or what...
Posted By: Hank Drake

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 07:24 PM

Originally Posted by Chopinlover49
I will not say who the artist was, but my daughter and I went to see this individual play the Rach 2, one of my childhood favorites, and even though we sat just a few rows from the stage and on the piano side, he played so softly that I could not hear many of the notes. ... I don't know if he was tired, or what...


One of the hardest things (for me, anyway, and judging by how many pianists botch it, for many) is to play an even pianissimo - and a projected pianissimo. If a pianist can't tell if his playing is "projecting", it's either a sign of failing hearing or really bad acoustics.
Posted By: jeffreyjones

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 07:39 PM

Originally Posted by Hank Drake
Originally Posted by Chopinlover49
I will not say who the artist was, but my daughter and I went to see this individual play the Rach 2, one of my childhood favorites, and even though we sat just a few rows from the stage and on the piano side, he played so softly that I could not hear many of the notes. ... I don't know if he was tired, or what...


One of the hardest things (for me, anyway, and judging by how many pianists botch it, for many) is to play an even pianissimo - and a projected pianissimo. If a pianist can't tell if his playing is "projecting", it's either a sign of failing hearing or really bad acoustics.


It's a sign of pianists playing "on the surface," which works well in studio recordings but not on stage. Have a listen to Scherbakov playing the Shostakovich P&F in C major for a wonderful example of playing on the surface. It's beautiful, but on stage, you have to use a more penetrating touch even for pianissimo, or it doesn't make it past the first rows. It sounds the same to the person sitting at the keyboard, but you need to physically use some weight on the keybed to throw the sound out. I couldn't explain to you in physics terms how it works that way, but on every piano I've ever played, that's how it works.

I played Debussy's Parfums (Prelude no. 4) at a college concert, and one of my classmates sitting in the back commented on how the final chords were whisper quiet, but still perfectly clear. What they didn't see was how much I was using my body to make that sound carry.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 07:53 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
When I used to regularly go to the great pianists series at Carnegie Hall, I can't recall hearing any of those pianists in maybe 100 concerts making an obvious mistake. For me, the only time technical perfection can be a possible "negative" is if it's combined with a certain type of cool or aloof on stage personality. For me, pianists who fall in this category are quite rare, but I'm thinking of ones like Michelangeli, Pollini, and Hamelin.

I would agree that I can't recall hearing any obvious mistakes from well-known pianists. The only exception to this was a performance many years ago by Gyorgy Sandor in Toledo. I think he was a last-minute substitute for another pianist, and I remember him playing Rhapsody in Blue. (I can't believe that's all he played. There had to have been some Bartok strewn in there somewhere). But I have to say it was a shockingly bad performance. He zoomed through it as though he was desperate for a bathroom break (or maybe to get out of Toledo grin), and even my untrained ears heard many mistakes.

I too don't understand how technical perfection could ever be considered a negative - unless there was nothing but technique. But in that case, it's not the great technique that's the problem. It's the lack of musical sensitivity, which should augment the technique.

Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 10:22 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by wr
And Hanon wasn't trying to write etudes - they are just finger exercises.

Agreed. Pianistic jumping jacks. And probably good for us. Boring, nonetheless.


To me, the ten of them that I go through daily (but not always in the same key) are fascinating. The whole gamut of exercises is, in general.

Unfortunately, when I was younger and they would have done the most good, I did think they were boring, and so I didn't do them. But at the time, I didn't understand that boredom was a self-created phenomenon, either, and that if I was bored, it wasn't the material, it was me.
Posted By: dolce sfogato

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 10:39 PM

maybe it's best to compare technically 'flawless' recordings of the past and listen to their 'musical' quality, here are 2 options: Horowitz versus Rubinstein in Chopin's Barcarolle, and the same heroes in Liszt's sonata, both play well, musically they are worlds apart, Rubi gets the Chopin, who gets the Liszt?
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/25/12 11:19 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
When I used to regularly go to the great pianists series at Carnegie Hall, I can't recall hearing any of those pianists in maybe 100 concerts making an obvious mistake. For me, the only time technical perfection can be a possible "negative" is if it's combined with a certain type of cool or aloof on stage personality. For me, pianists who fall in this category are quite rare, but I'm thinking of ones like Michelangeli, Pollini, and Hamelin.

I would agree that I can't recall hearing any obvious mistakes from well-known pianists. The only exception to this was a performance many years ago by Gyorgy Sandor in Toledo. I think he was a last-minute substitute for another pianist, and I remember him playing Rhapsody in Blue. (I can't believe that's all he played. There had to have been some Bartok strewn in there somewhere). But I have to say it was a shockingly bad performance. He zoomed through it as though he was desperate for a bathroom break (or maybe to get out of Toledo grin), and even my untrained ears heard many mistakes.

I too don't understand how technical perfection could ever be considered a negative - unless there was nothing but technique. But in that case, it's not the great technique that's the problem. It's the lack of musical sensitivity, which should augment the technique.



I must live on a different planet. It's a fairly unusual experience for me to go to full-length recitals by concert pianists where there are zero mistakes. And most of those were probably because I wasn't really listening as closely as I could have been, didn't know the music that well, or had a bad seat.

Maybe people just don't hear them. I remember once here at PW people were raving about the playing of some Chopin etude on YouTube, and I kept thinking "What about that finger slip? Don't people hear it?" I'm pretty sure they didn't, because while it was a mistake, it was not a hugely noticeable one, not like hitting the wrong note in some big climatic spot. It was just a small glitch in the rush of notes, and if you didn't know the piece pretty well, I could understand why it wouldn't be noticed. But it was still a mistake, and it was still really there.

One of the interesting things about our hearing (and our other senses, as well), is that, because of conditioning, we tend to perceive what we expect, and I think that can smooth out our perception of mistakes in concerts unless they are pretty glaring. Back in the days when I did play in front people, it would happen that I'd make a mistake, and afterwards, when I asked my pianist friends about it, they would often say they didn't hear it. Of course, to me, it seemed enormous. Sadly, that also seemed to imply that they didn't hear a lot of the right notes, either.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 12:01 AM

Originally Posted by wr
I must live on a different planet. It's a fairly unusual experience for me to go to full-length recitals by concert pianists where there are zero mistakes. And most of those were probably because I wasn't really listening as closely as I could have been, didn't know the music that well, or had a bad seat.
Although I may have forgotten their mistakes at this point or slightly exaggerated things, perhaps it's the class of pianists appearing on Carnegie Hall's most exclusive keyboard series. Even when they had the double series this was only around 12 pianists per season total. So these are mostly super pianists and among the very best technically and musically on the planet.

When I've attended the IKIF concerts at Mannes for the last 12 years, these pianists are incredibly good but perhaps not always in the super world class category of the Carnegie Hall series. And in these concerts I've heard many mistakes from many of the performers.

When talking about the Carnegie concerts, I was careful to qualify the mistakes as "obvious"(for me meaning not just the most glaring type of clunker but also not a slight smudging that only someone extremely familiar with the work might hear if they were listening very closely).
Posted By: Damon

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 12:04 AM

Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
maybe it's best to compare technically 'flawless' recordings of the past and listen to their 'musical' quality, here are 2 options: Horowitz versus Rubinstein in Chopin's Barcarolle, and the same heroes in Liszt's sonata, both play well, musically they are worlds apart, Rubi gets the Chopin, who gets the Liszt?


Rubi.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 03:20 AM

Originally Posted by wr

I must live on a different planet. It's a fairly unusual experience for me to go to full-length recitals by concert pianists where there are zero mistakes. And most of those were probably because I wasn't really listening as closely as I could have been, didn't know the music that well, or had a bad seat.

No, you don't live on a different planet. You simply have a more discerning ear. I'm primarily a classical music lover, not a performer. I can only play piano at a very sub-amateur level. And since I'm incapable of playing the pieces I would normally hear in a concert, I'm equally incapable of detecting mistakes, unless they're especially egregious. I agree that the mistakes are there, but don't count on me to notice them.
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 03:41 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by wr
I must live on a different planet. It's a fairly unusual experience for me to go to full-length recitals by concert pianists where there are zero mistakes. And most of those were probably because I wasn't really listening as closely as I could have been, didn't know the music that well, or had a bad seat.
No, you don't live on a different planet. You simply have a more discerning ear....

I'm wondering if the two of you mean different things by "mistakes."

When I played in the semifinals of the Cliburn amateur competition last year, an online reviewer, in a rightly mediocre review, said "....While there were no real errors, there were some places where his aim was off and some unintended notes snuck in." I'm guessing that maybe this guy's "no real errors" was sort of like your "no mistakes," and you're just not counting things like "unintended notes" (of which I actually had more than "some") as mistakes as long as they're not awful. (Do you really mean that you don't notice them at all?)
Posted By: Carey

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 04:20 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man
I'm primarily a classical music lover, not a performer. I can only play piano at a very sub-amateur level. And since I'm incapable of playing the pieces I would normally hear in a concert, I'm equally incapable of detecting mistakes, unless they're especially egregious. I agree that the mistakes are there, but don't count on me to notice them.

Old Man - your honesty is refreshing. wink

Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/26/12 05:26 AM

If you look at metronome markings generally, it seems that a lot of music is being played more slowly these days that it once was. For one well-known example, pianists today routinely do not obey Chopin's metronome markings in the nocturnes that have them. Some of Alkan's metronome markings seem almost incredibly fast, but I don't doubt he could play his music at those speeds, especially given the relatively light and shallow actions of his day. And even many editorial metronome markings from the past seem fast - to me, anyway. The ones in some of Bischoff's Bach editions can seem very fast relative to how that music is played by most pianists today - at least that's my impression of them. But, OTOH, some early music specialists play the music in their niche much faster than used to be norm.

Posted By: keystring

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/26/12 05:59 AM

I seem to remember that earlier pianos had less sustain and this influenced some choices in terms of tempo.
Posted By: Franz Beebert

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 12:12 PM

Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
maybe it's best to compare technically 'flawless' recordings of the past and listen to their 'musical' quality, here are 2 options: Horowitz versus Rubinstein in Chopin's Barcarolle, and the same heroes in Liszt's sonata, both play well, musically they are worlds apart, Rubi gets the Chopin, who gets the Liszt?


Rubi.

Horowitz definately gets the Liszt. Perhaps he gets the Barcarolle too IMO.. Yes, as I see it, Horowitz is a much greater pianist in than Rubinstein.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 01:32 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by wr
I must live on a different planet. It's a fairly unusual experience for me to go to full-length recitals by concert pianists where there are zero mistakes. And most of those were probably because I wasn't really listening as closely as I could have been, didn't know the music that well, or had a bad seat.
No, you don't live on a different planet. You simply have a more discerning ear....

I'm wondering if the two of you mean different things by "mistakes."

When I played in the semifinals of the Cliburn amateur competition last year, an online reviewer, in a rightly mediocre review, said "....While there were no real errors, there were some places where his aim was off and some unintended notes snuck in." I'm guessing that maybe this guy's "no real errors" was sort of like your "no mistakes," and you're just not counting things like "unintended notes" (of which I actually had more than "some") as mistakes as long as they're not awful. (Do you really mean that you don't notice them at all?)

Well, Mark, I'm sure that wr and I do mean different things. Using your own example, I would probably have paid you high compliments unless you'd hit a clinker in a piece that I was very familiar with. Let's say you were supposed to play an E major chord, and you hit G instead of G#. I would certainly notice that a major chord had turned minor, and I would call that an egregious error.

But if you inadvertently (or even intentionally) added, subtracted, or re-arranged notes, especially in difficult passages, I would probably not notice them, as long as they were harmonically consistent with how I'm used to hearing that particular passage. Now in a slow piece, like Traumerei, of course I would notice any deviations. But that's because I'm familiar with both the score and how it should sound. But if you're playing Rach 3, forget it. I know basically what it should sound like, but I've never laid eyes on the score, and have zero reason to do so. Given the plethora of notes, you could add (or more likely, subtract) whatever you want, and I'd still give you a standing O. But I suspect wr would say you screwed up.

Frankly, after several months at PW, I'm still flabbergasted that there are people in this forum who actually can play Rach 3. So even though Argerich, Sokolov, and Perahia are probably not lurking in PW, I'm still a bit starstruck. Kind of like an eight-year old with his baseball glove and hat, who aimlessly walks around Yankee stadium at 7:00 AM. He simply wants to hang out where the big boys play. grin
Posted By: Hank Drake

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 02:59 PM

Originally Posted by Franz Beebert
Originally Posted by Damon
Originally Posted by dolce sfogato
maybe it's best to compare technically 'flawless' recordings of the past and listen to their 'musical' quality, here are 2 options: Horowitz versus Rubinstein in Chopin's Barcarolle, and the same heroes in Liszt's sonata, both play well, musically they are worlds apart, Rubi gets the Chopin, who gets the Liszt?


Rubi.

Horowitz definately gets the Liszt. Perhaps he gets the Barcarolle too IMO.. Yes, as I see it, Horowitz is a much greater pianist in than Rubinstein.


It would be helpful if it was specified WHICH recordings of Chopin's Barcarolle and Liszt's Sonata were being compared. There are four commercially issued recordings of the Barcarolle by Horowitz and at least five by Rubinstein (my sentimental favorite is the first one).

I'd definitely put Horowitz's 1932 recording of the Liszt ahead of Rubinstein's (he only recorded it once), but I can't say the same for VH's 1976 version.
Posted By: dolce sfogato

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/26/12 09:43 PM

agree totally!
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 03:23 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man

Well, Mark, I'm sure that wr and I do mean different things. Using your own example, I would probably have paid you high compliments unless you'd hit a clinker in a piece that I was very familiar with. Let's say you were supposed to play an E major chord, and you hit G instead of G#. I would certainly notice that a major chord had turned minor, and I would call that an egregious error.



Actually, I don't think we mean different things - it's just different levels in granularity of the same thing.

And I need to say here, in case you have the wrong idea, that I usually don't hold a few mistakes against a performer. Or, with somebody like Cortot, even quite a few mistakes. I'm just not very nit-picky in that way.

But etudes, like the Chopin I mentioned earlier, are a special case, since they are in some sense about technique. And context makes a big difference - it does kind of make me wonder about their standards if a professional posts a YouTube video of a studio performance of a Chopin etude that contains an error that is obvious enough for me to notice. If it were of a live performance, I probably wouldn't have thought twice about it.

And, BTW, the reason I was able to catch that error isn't because I can actually play the etude. But I have read through it slowly enough times and worked on it long enough to hear errors in it. I don't imagine I'll ever be able to actually play the thing up to tempo, though. <sigh>

Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 09:56 AM

Here's something from Arrau (who was the same age as Horowitz) that talks about the "technique" vs. "musicality" thing. At first, it is about Edwin Fischer, and then expands from there to be about a kind of musical culture that existed in Berlin in the 1920s, and probably was something Horowitz and Rachmaninoff had run into. It provides a bit of context, I think -

"He [Fischer] was just finishing his studies when I started with Krause. I worshiped him from the beginning. I couldn't look at him as a pupil, although he was one. He didn't have very much technique, you know. But you didn't care. There was this group of pianists who considered preoccupation with technique to be superficial. Kempff also believed that. I don't think he ever practiced, or studied exercises. Erdmann neither. Schnabel neither. Elly Ney neither. They all considered it undignified."

And too, Horowitz had been memorably trashed in the Grove dictionary as having great technique, but being a poor musician. And it's easy enough to understand why - he certainly didn't disdain using flashy (and arguably vulgar) effects based on his amazing technique to dazzle the audience. In some ways, as a musician (and great one, IMO), he could be his own worst enemy.

Another thing that might be somehow involved in the motivation for Horowitz's telling of this snarky anecdote - Cortot was altogether too happy to work with the Vichy regime in the 1940s, and I can imagine that for that reason alone, any little opportunity to subtly undermine his reputation might be appealing to Horowitz.

And in the end, for all their snark, AFAIK neither Horowitz nor Rachmaninoff actually performed all of the Chopin etudes in public. But Cortot did. Hmmm....



Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 04:08 PM

Thanks for the fascinating commentary from Arrau, wr. It really shines an entirely different light on the subject, and suggests that pianists such as Kempff and Schnabel might have had some equally snarky things to say about the titans of technique. That they viewed any obsession with technique as "superficial" and "undignified" reminds me of current day criticism of Lang Lang, who is also viewed by many (not me) as superficial and devoid of musicality.

I also suspect that Artur Rubinstein might have shared the views of Kempff and Schnabel. In his book "Horowitz: His Life and Times", Harold Schonberg provides this quote from Rubinstein about his relationship with Horowitz. I found it tinged with bitterness, yet very poignant.

Quote
His friendship was that of a king for his subject, which means he befriended me and, in a way, used me. In short, he did not consider me an equal. It caused me to begin to feel a deep artistic depression. Deep within myself I felt I was the better musician. My conception of the sense of music was more mature, but at the same time I was conscious of my terrible defects -- of my negligence for detail, my treatment of some concerts as a pleasant pastime, all due to that devilish facility for grasping and learning the pieces and then playing them lightheartedly in public; with all the conviction of my own musical superiority, I had to concede that Volodya was by far the better pianist."

Interesting how Rubinstein makes a clear separation between musician and pianist. He believed himself to be the superior musician, yet concedes that Horowitz is the superior pianist. This runs contrary to what many have posted here, that technique and musicianship are inextricably linked. And this latter view has always been my own as well.

I hate to venture into dime-store psychoanalysis, but I have to say that Horowitz comes off in this book as very insecure. He seems to need constant adulation, from both his audience and those around him. And I think he did indeed worry that other pianists might be more "musical" than him, even if they were technically inferior. Schonberg gives us a hint of this when talking about Chopin's G Minor Ballade, which he describes as "always one of Horowitz's problem pieces". He also says, "Horowitz fought this ballade all his life, constantly playing and recording it, never really making up his mind about how it should go." No doubt VH could play the notes in his sleep, yet he remained flummoxed by the music itself. Amazing.
Posted By: Orange Soda King

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 04:14 PM

Skipping all the replies (and parts of the OP that I'm not the most familiar with and won't research more at the moment due to my limited time), I've heard some people say things along the lines of "it wasn't the most technically masterful performance, but it was so musical."

I think they mean that the person had a very human and sensitive performance, even if there was some sort of physical aspect or two that they struggled at a bit.

But I don't believe inherently that "musical" means "technically lacking." I think if someone is technically lacking, they lack a key component for making good music! Although, sometimes a technically lacking person still has good understanding of music making, and sometimes a very refined technician is too one-dimensional. Both people have very important things to improve upon!
Posted By: Mark_C

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 05:16 PM

Originally Posted by Old Man
....Interesting how Rubinstein makes a clear separation between musician and pianist. He believed himself to be the superior musician, yet concedes that Horowitz is the superior pianist. This runs contrary to what many have posted here, that technique and musicianship are inextricably linked. And this latter view has always been my own as well....

I don't see it as contrary at all!

He wasn't making a "clear separation," just a fine distinction. Lots of stuff is like that: They might contain things that are inextricably linked to a very great extent, yet it's very possible in another way to look at them separately.
Posted By: Stanza

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 05:21 PM

I think if one substitutes technique for musicianship is when the trouble starts. I guess "perfect perceived technique" would be a note perfect midi sequence, played out basically as fast as you want..there will still be no mistakes! Of course we all know how it will sound. Maybe impressive to a programmer but not to a musician.

I guess you could broadly group pianists into a 2x2 cross:

Good technique/good musicianship
Good technique/poor musicanship (show-off?)
Poor technique/good musicianship
Poor technique/poor musicianship


I think one of the "disconnnects" is overly strict adherence to the sheetmusic. By design, written music is a bit constrained by the regularity of the bar lines and note subdivisions. But these are necessary standards that allow for communication of the musical intent and structure.

What brings music alive is passing it through the "filter" of the human being. What comes out in each instance it a unique performance. Focusing on playing the score as quickly and accurately as possible seems to be the goal for some, but to me it starts to approach the aforementioned "midi sound".
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 06:02 PM

Originally Posted by Stanza
I think if one substitutes technique for musicianship is when the trouble starts. I guess "perfect perceived technique" would be a note perfect midi sequence, played out basically as fast as you want..there will still be no mistakes! Of course we all know how it will sound. Maybe impressive to a programmer but not to a musician.
I don't think one can substitue technique for musicianship. It's possible one could think that complete technical control is the only think necessary for a good performance, which is maybe what you were saying.

One could play technically well in the sense one was doing exactly what one wanted, but this could be musical or not or somewhere in between. As far as perfect technique goes, I think it would include more than playing with complete accuracy at whatever tempo one desired. I'd define it as being able to do whatever one wants with the score(whether those decisions were good or bad). For example, can one achieve the articulation one desires, voice a melody/chords the way one wants to, etc.
Posted By: Stanza

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 06:17 PM

I totally agree. Voicing chords is a great example of what I am talking about. On paper, with few exceptions, the notes of the chord are all equal. The musicianship comes in voicing the chord, but you need the technique to do it. But some insist on playing each voice equally because there is no indication on the score to do any different.
Posted By: Old Man

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 07:13 PM

Originally Posted by Mark_C
Originally Posted by Old Man
....Interesting how Rubinstein makes a clear separation between musician and pianist. He believed himself to be the superior musician, yet concedes that Horowitz is the superior pianist. This runs contrary to what many have posted here, that technique and musicianship are inextricably linked. And this latter view has always been my own as well....

I don't see it as contrary at all!

Always the contrarian, aren't you! laugh
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 07:32 PM

Originally Posted by Stanza
I totally agree. Voicing chords is a great example of what I am talking about. On paper, with few exceptions, the notes of the chord are all equal. The musicianship comes in voicing the chord, but you need the technique to do it. But some insist on playing each voice equally because there is no indication on the score to do any different.
The musicianship comes in deciding how to voice the chord. Technique is what allows you to do it. After a few years instruction, no decent player will think all the notes ahould be played equally.
Posted By: Hank Drake

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 08:47 PM

Originally Posted by wr
Another thing that might be somehow involved in the motivation for Horowitz's telling of this snarky anecdote - Cortot was altogether too happy to work with the Vichy regime in the 1940s, and I can imagine that for that reason alone, any little opportunity to subtly undermine his reputation might be appealing to Horowitz.


If you're insinuating that Horowitz trashed Corot because of Cortot's anti-Semitism, that's way off base. Horowitz was Jewish, but he was not a hard-core Zionist (unlike Rubinstein). Horowitz praised Gieseking's Debussy (Rubinstein didn't), but then noted that Gieseking often applied his trademark pianissimo to music where it wasn't suited. Also, Horowitz was hoping to record the Brahms 2nd Concerto with Karajan in the early 1970s (it never happened because Karajan was with DG, and VH bolted Columbia for RCA) and Karajan had even joined the Nazi party at one point.

Horowitz certainly noted the anti-Semitism and political views of various artists, but that was hardly his only yardstick for assessing musicians. I recall VH noting that Rachmaninoff himself had a "slight" anti-Jewish prejudice, and Lord knows VH praised Rachmaninoff to the skies. I think Horowitz's comments regarding Cortot and Gieseking are balanced and spot on spot-on.

Don't forget, it was Rachmaninoff, who was not Jewish, who made the "musical" comment.
Posted By: jeffreyjones

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 08:54 PM

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Stanza
I totally agree. Voicing chords is a great example of what I am talking about. On paper, with few exceptions, the notes of the chord are all equal. The musicianship comes in voicing the chord, but you need the technique to do it. But some insist on playing each voice equally because there is no indication on the score to do any different.
The musicianship comes in deciding how to voice the chord. Technique is what allows you to do it. After a few years instruction, no decent player will think all the notes ahould be played equally.


I start teaching this within weeks. Not necessarily voicing chords, but at least weighting the hands so that one stands out and the other accompanies.
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/27/12 11:48 PM

Originally Posted by Hank Drake
Originally Posted by wr
Another thing that might be somehow involved in the motivation for Horowitz's telling of this snarky anecdote - Cortot was altogether too happy to work with the Vichy regime in the 1940s, and I can imagine that for that reason alone, any little opportunity to subtly undermine his reputation might be appealing to Horowitz.


If you're insinuating that Horowitz trashed Corot because of Cortot's anti-Semitism, that's way off base. Horowitz was Jewish, but he was not a hard-core Zionist (unlike Rubinstein). Horowitz praised Gieseking's Debussy (Rubinstein didn't), but then noted that Gieseking often applied his trademark pianissimo to music where it wasn't suited. Also, Horowitz was hoping to record the Brahms 2nd Concerto with Karajan in the early 1970s (it never happened because Karajan was with DG, and VH bolted Columbia for RCA) and Karajan had even joined the Nazi party at one point.

Horowitz certainly noted the anti-Semitism and political views of various artists, but that was hardly his only yardstick for assessing musicians. I recall VH noting that Rachmaninoff himself had a "slight" anti-Jewish prejudice, and Lord knows VH praised Rachmaninoff to the skies. I think Horowitz's comments regarding Cortot and Gieseking are balanced and spot on spot-on.

Don't forget, it was Rachmaninoff, who was not Jewish, who made the "musical" comment.


My comment had more nuance than your response suggests. There is no reason to think Horowitz would necessarily have exactly the same feelings towards every single musician who had had any connection to the enemy during WWII, and that those feelings would stay exactly the same over the years. I still think that the political angle could have been some part of Horowitz's sense of who Cortot was as a person, and it might play some part, however small, in how Horowitz spoke about him.

Secondly, if Horowitz had not meant to tell the story as a kind of snarky anecdote about Cortot, using Rachmaninoff as a proxy for his opinion, then he would have made some sort of moderating comment along with it, something that said he didn't necessarily agree. But he must have liked this way of bad-mouthing of Cortot via Rachmaninoff, since he told the story in public more than once.
Posted By: Cinnamonbear

Re: Is the word 'musical' really code for 'technically lacking'? - 09/28/12 04:13 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man
I finally had the pleasure of reading Harold C. Schonberg's "Horowitz: His Life and Music" while on vacation. Early in the book Schonberg quotes Horowitz regarding Alfred Cortot's playing.

Quote
His Chopin and Schumann were for me the best. His Schumann was fantastic. He had good taste and a good but not great technique, though he lost his technique in the last years of his life. He played a lot on the radio. I remember hearing him in many things. Once I visited Rachmaninoff in Switzerland at his house. When I walked in he was laughing so loud his false teeth were coming out. I asked him what was so funny.

"I have just been listening on the radio to Cortot playing all the Chopin etudes."

"That was so good?" I asked.

"Wonderful. But, you know, the most difficult of the etudes were the ones he played most 'musical.'"


Get real, everyone. Anyone who has ever played live before an audience knows what this means. Yes, it is a snarky comment. And the one sitting on the bench at the time would honestly apply the "assessment" to him/herself. ("It goes like this: whoops!")
Posted By: acortot

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/28/12 08:52 AM

Horowitz said that if Art Tatum took up classical he would quit.

So what does THAT quote tell you about musicality?

Before the wars, there were no piano competitions like today. A pianist was judged by how the audiences reacted emotionally to his playing (like every other form of music which is free from the teaching institutions)

Does the average listener actually hear all the noted and count rhythm like someone who has been dissecting the music 6 hours a day for 20 years?

No

Rachmaninoff was one of the more technically precise players of the day and was considered 'cold' by many.

Horowitz could not understand how Tatum played, he (like many classical pianists of today) had no such skills in improvisation

Improvisation was something all great pianists were supposed to do in the early 1800s. This makes for a looser conception of composition and execution


Vladimir de Pachmann probably had the most refined technique and control over his phrasing. He could inject nuance in every phrase and could twist the rhythms at will with absolute control

Today he would be regarded as messy and lacking technique but that is due to misunderstanding. What IS technique? Regular and clean execution? not quite. That is the beginning of technique. To interpret the music rhythms and shadings must be altered in a way that can only be described as artistically successful or not. The judges are the audience
Posted By: wr

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/28/12 09:07 AM

Originally Posted by Old Man
Thanks for the fascinating commentary from Arrau, wr. It really shines an entirely different light on the subject, and suggests that pianists such as Kempff and Schnabel might have had some equally snarky things to say about the titans of technique. That they viewed any obsession with technique as "superficial" and "undignified" reminds me of current day criticism of Lang Lang, who is also viewed by many (not me) as superficial and devoid of musicality.

I also suspect that Artur Rubinstein might have shared the views of Kempff and Schnabel. In his book "Horowitz: His Life and Times", Harold Schonberg provides this quote from Rubinstein about his relationship with Horowitz. I found it tinged with bitterness, yet very poignant.

Quote
His friendship was that of a king for his subject, which means he befriended me and, in a way, used me. In short, he did not consider me an equal. It caused me to begin to feel a deep artistic depression. Deep within myself I felt I was the better musician. My conception of the sense of music was more mature, but at the same time I was conscious of my terrible defects -- of my negligence for detail, my treatment of some concerts as a pleasant pastime, all due to that devilish facility for grasping and learning the pieces and then playing them lightheartedly in public; with all the conviction of my own musical superiority, I had to concede that Volodya was by far the better pianist."

Interesting how Rubinstein makes a clear separation between musician and pianist. He believed himself to be the superior musician, yet concedes that Horowitz is the superior pianist. This runs contrary to what many have posted here, that technique and musicianship are inextricably linked. And this latter view has always been my own as well.



Technique and musicianship are inextricably linked, I think, but only in a certain way and only up to a certain point. The pianists Arrau talked about as having a kind of disdain for highly developed technique did have at least enough technique to get their musicianship across to their audience, and most of them are still respected to this day.

Fischer may not have held a candle to Arrau in terms of technique, but he was still a magnificent musician, and he had enough chops to convey it. And I have to say, playing Bach, a specialty of his, isn't exactly easy, either. Anyway, as Arrau said, you just don't care about his lack of technique. And that's because his music-making was so compelling.

Posted By: slipperykeys

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/30/12 09:36 PM

Is the phrase, "Good at English" code for, "Bad at Maths", or "Good at Art" code for, "Bad at Science"?
I don't think a classification can be based on the thoughts of one or two individuals because their assessment, while it may be more expert will be as skewed as anybody elses's, except perhaps for different reasons.

I read in "International Piano" that Cortot's Chopin was "sloppy"... but it was better than mine and I would have been ecstatic with it, although of course, I am not a world famous concert pianist.

I will take an example of style that I know quite well and am very keen on, Valentina Lisitsa's.

Many proclaim her technically superb, certainly her videos and most of her live performances and studio work appear to be near perfection, but the same people will often also refer to her as, "not very musical".

Ok, but for me her "Schwanengesang" is as near perfection as any performance of a work of art can be, so perhaps pianists perform different pieces at different levels, it would not surprise me.

As such, every performance should perhaps, in my opinion, be judged on its own merit rather than labelled.

For this reason I still wait optimistically for a performance from certain "World Famous Pianists" that I enjoy.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 09/30/12 11:02 PM

Originally Posted by acortot
Horowitz said that if Art Tatum took up classical he would quit. So what does THAT quote tell you about musicality?
Probably nothing unless you think one should take Horowitz literally. It was probably just his way of complimenting Tatum. Their techniques and the technical requirements of the music they played are very different, and I'd guess that Horowitz realized that Tatum probably couldn't play like him either.

Originally Posted by acortot
Before the wars, there were no piano competitions like today. A pianist was judged by how the audiences reacted emotionally to his playing (like every other form of music which is free from the teaching institutions)
I think you mean the audience judged the performer by their emotional reaction which is probably the way they do it today also. Critics didn't always agree with the audience then or now.

Originally Posted by acortot
Rachmaninoff was one of the more technically precise players of the day and was considered 'cold' by many.
He was one of the most popular pianists of his day and considered one of the greatest by both the public and critics. If some considered him cold, this was probably because of his platform manner or interpretive style which was closer to what is usually considered "correct" today. It was not because of his precision.

Originally Posted by acortot
Horowitz could not understand how Tatum played, he (like many classical pianists of today) had no such skills in improvisation
Horowitz was an excellent improviser but in the classical style. It's not surprising he would be impressed by the improvisational skills of one of the greatest of jazz pianists. With the exception of most of the great composer pianists, probably few classical pianists of most any era could or should be expected to improvise at the same level as the best jazz pianists. Improvisation is at the heart of jazz but this is not true for classical music(nor should it be IMO).


Originally Posted by acortot
Today he would be regarded as messy and lacking technique but that is due to misunderstanding. What IS technique? Regular and clean execution? not quite. That is the beginning of technique. To interpret the music rhythms and shadings must be altered in a way that can only be described as artistically successful or not. The judges are the audience
Many would probably regard de Pachman's interpretations(not so much his technique)as lacking because the interpretive ideas of his day were so different from today. One approach isn't necessarily better the other. If the judges are the audience, then today's audiences probably wouldn't like de Pachmann.
Posted By: bennevis

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 10/01/12 08:39 AM

Artur Rubinstein said of Gilels that ´´if that kid ever comes to the USA, I may as well pack my bags and go´´. It was his way of complimenting Gilels´s huge technique but certainly not meant to be taken literally.
Posted By: Kimsie

Re: Is the word "musical" really code for "technically inept"? - 12/18/12 08:40 PM

This answer sidetracks a little from the original post, but my son was a late starter and when he started competing we knew his technique wasn't so good, but we knew he was "musical" and we looked at the competitions as "competition practice" so that he could get used to doing it and learn to deal with nervousness (he was 13 at his first competition and so many of the competitors start so much younger and are old hands by 13). We noticed at one competition that has a masterclass format where the adjudicator talks with the student that the first 2 years they always said that he was musical, but we noticed that they didn't say it to the students who played very well, or to the ones who were NOT musical. We laughed about it and said that the word "musical" really meant "You're technique isn't too good yet, but you have talent so keep trying."
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