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Andsnes got a terrific and lengthy review in today's NY Times for his performance of Pictures at an Exhibition, Kinderscenen, and other works. Perhaps someone can post it.

The interesting thing was that Pictures was played with a complex visual presentation projected behind the pianist. The pictures/video projected seemed to have little to do with the pictures Mussorgsky references.

This apparent incongruity doesn't make much sense to me, although it might be "interesting". I wonder if as many people would have attended if a lesser pianist included the same visual presentation.


Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/16/09 07:48 AM.
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Here you go. If the FBI comes after me for copyright infringement, I'm sending them to your house. grin

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/arts/music/16andsnes.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=andsnes&st=cse


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“Gnomus” becomes an eerily delicate ballet for coils of thin wire.
I'm learning Picture's right now (only got 1/4 polished...still a long way to go). Gnomus seems to me more like a story of a scary bogeyman monster. I don't understand where the delicate ballet would fit in. confused This, however, sounds really cool. laugh
Quote
“The Great Gate of Kiev,” in the arresting image of a grand piano, placed deep in the well of a steel-sided canal, being slowly engulfed by gushing water until completely submerged.

Classical performers are being pushed nowadays, by public demand, to be more "interesting." This is an innovative way to go about it and I don't think it takes away from the spirit of the piece. Pictures, after all, is a piece designed to invoke a visual experience.

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Perhaps what Musorgsky was inspired by in these paintings was not the visual image per se, but some sort of emotional or spiritual impression. What was it about "The Great Gate of Kiev" that inspired him to compose this piece? Perhaps, the emotional/spiritual impression that he was trying to evoke in his work is the same as the emotional/spiritual impression one might get from seeing "a grand piano, placed deep in the well of a steel-sided canal, being slowly engulfed by gushing water until completely submerged." Perhaps the impression that he got from the painting/idea of Gnomus is the same impression one might get from "an eerily delicate ballet for coils of thin wire." Yes, they are different images, but perhaps they all contain the same abstract emotions/spirituality.

What are these emotional/spiritual impressions? They are perhaps hard to explain in and of themselves, which is why the visuals are important as examples of this abstract emotion. Perhaps this was the point of the display in this concert - after all, *somebody* designed the slideshow - to show that what is important is not the visual image per se, but rather something much deeper and more personal.


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I was lucky enough to witness this magnificent performance at it's premiere in Norway at Risør Chamber Music Festival this summer. I must admit it didn't take much time before I ignored the animated pictures and listened closely to the stunning piano playing. The piano drowning fascinated me, though - accompanied by Andsnes, it actually felt like seeing a real person getting drowned. Great performance, and a great interpretation of Musorgsky's great piano suite.


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Eirik, I also enjoy his playing very much, although I haven't heard him play this suite. His recording of Haydn concertos (playing AND conducting), to pick just one example, is simply wonderful.

What is his reception like in Norway? Is he very popular? Is there any sort of national pride about him?


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Originally Posted by Frozenicicles

Classical performers are being pushed nowadays, by public demand, to be more "interesting." This is an innovative way to go about it and I don't think it takes away from the spirit of the piece. Pictures, after all, is a piece designed to invoke a visual experience.


One of the reasons classical performers are pushed this way is because they play the same old stuff. They are always looking to program a "blockbuster" that shows off technical skill, is long but not too long, has a lot of coloration, and is accepted as a "serious" work because no one is allowed to program shallow music as was common 100 years ago. A piece can become a blockbuster if it helps someone win a competition.

Pictures was just such a piece about 15 years ago, interesting but very overplayed. It has been replaced by the Liszt sonata, the blockbuster de jour, and a terribly overplayed piece. Some of us who would otherwise want to hear an artist don't go because the programming is so stale.

At least Andsnes had a gimmick to get your mind off the music, however well he played it.

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I don't see any evidence that Pictures or the Liszt Sonata have incresed/decreased in terms of recital frequency. I think tehy've both been popular for a long time.

I feel certain Andsnes' idea wasn't to find a way to get "your mind off the music".

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I share Numerian's impression, not data-driven, that Pictures gets performed less frequently nowadays unlike the Liszt sonata.
I heard about this piano / visual arts performance but hesitated too long about going. The hall was actually completely sold out.
I think it is an interesting concept, well-suited to this particular piece. I was curious about the images and found a preview. Check the link below and scroll down to see the "flooding gates" and the submerged piano. Interesting, but I like my concerts espresso style, no milk or sugar.

A propos pictures at an exhibition, Richter's live performance at the Sofia recital 1958 remains the gold standard, poor sound quality and flubbed note and all..

http://www.yatzer.com/feed_1926_robin_rhode_and_leif_ove_andsnes

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Originally Posted by Andromaque
I share Numerian's impression, not data-driven, that Pictures gets performed less frequently nowadays unlike the Liszt sonata.


I think that's always been the case.

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Originally Posted by pianojerome
Eirik, I also enjoy his playing very much, although I haven't heard him play this suite. His recording of Haydn concertos (playing AND conducting), to pick just one example, is simply wonderful.
What is his reception like in Norway? Is he very popular? Is there any sort of national pride about him?

Well, in a country where classical music are appreciated by only a minority of the population, he's one of the few classical performers known by most people, and he's regulary in media. So a certain national pride there is indeed.

If you liked hearing him playing Haydn, you should check out his recordings of Grieg and Rachmaninoff. Magnificent!

Last edited by Eirik Steinauge; 11/22/09 10:06 AM.

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a video with Andsnes and the visual artist explaining some of their ideas and snippets of the piano performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Vh_...57A43D2AF966C&index=0&playnext=1

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
I share Numerian's impression, not data-driven, that Pictures gets performed less frequently nowadays unlike the Liszt sonata.


I think that's always been the case.


I remember seeing Pictures on one program after another in the 70s. It might have started with Horowitz programming it, and then someone won a competition with this piece as part of the repertoire. It's the competition victory that does the trick; students suddenly start working on the piece that they might not even have heard before, hoping it will work magic for them. Teachers do nothing to stop this.

Nobody played the Liszt sonata until about 10 or 15 years ago, and then it just exploded. It's still extremely "popular" and we just have to grit our teeth through each performance.

Going way way back it is possible these pieces alternated in popularity, though I think Mussorgsky was not widely known outside of Russia until many Russian musicians began emigrating west after the Revolution. But to confirm pianoloverus's observation that they have always been popular, the 1930s recording of the Liszt sonata by Horowitz remains a masterpiece - perhaps the best ever of this piece. Which is another reason why over-performance of the sonata by artists who aren't saying anything interesting is lamentable.

I don't know what the next fad will be. Sometimes I think the Brahms-Handel variations will break through, or that Schumann's Symphonic Etudes will make a comeback. As long as there are contests, there will be compositions that become favorites of performers (not necessarily the audience) because they seemed to contribute to the victory. Someday - perhaps decades from now - I think one obvious candidate for such stardom is the Rite of Spring, in the Schirmer edition transcribed by Leyetchkiss. It is the only version authorized by Stravinsky, it has the requisite length, the coloration, the wow factor, the technical difficulty. Some student has to discover it and win a prize with it to start the fad rolling.

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Originally Posted by Numerian
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Andromaque
I share Numerian's impression, not data-driven, that Pictures gets performed less frequently nowadays unlike the Liszt sonata.


I think that's always been the case.


I remember seeing Pictures on one program after another in the 70s. It might have started with Horowitz programming it, and then someone won a competition with this piece as part of the repertoire. It's the competition victory that does the trick; students suddenly start working on the piece that they might not even have heard before, hoping it will work magic for them. Teachers do nothing to stop this.

Nobody played the Liszt sonata until about 10 or 15 years ago, and then it just exploded. It's still extremely "popular" and we just have to grit our teeth through each performance.



Definitely not my experience and I've lived in NYC for over 40 years and heard lots of concerts(and seen the programs for many more). Nor do I think someone's competition victory with some repertoire influences popularity of a piece. I can't think of a single instance where this has happened.

I just checked just the first page of Youtube recordings of the Liszt Sonata and there were ones by Arrau, Horowitz, Argerich, Sofronitsky, Richter, Rubinstein... all from more than 15 years ago.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 11/22/09 06:29 PM.

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