Go out and listen to something…

March 27, 2006

Alfred Brendel at the Kennedy Center, Feb. 7, 2006

Filed under: music — burnett @ 9:21 am

originally posted March 13, 2006

I landed some tickets to pianist Alfred Brendel last month.¬ The seats were 7 rows from the piano, stage left.¬ The sound is excellent there, big piano sound and very
clear.¬ The Kennedy Center Concert Hall is otherwise murder for a solo event, as the sound collapses further into the room.

He played Haydn D Major Sonate, Schubert G major Sonate, Mozart C minor Fantasie, Mozart Rondo in A minor, and Haydn C major Sonate,¬ Hob. xvi:50.

The Haydn was always scintillating and clever.¬ His successful attention to detail reminded me of another obsessively detailed pianist…except in a good way.¬ He really brings it off, and it was simply fantastic.¬ It was nice to hear the Schubert, of course, but he held it in a kind of monochromatic light that didn’t grab me like the Haydn.¬ In fact, I wonder why he didn’t put some of the same articulation elements and mannerisms in the Schubert, except that maybe he wanted a complete contrast.

The Fantasie, again highly articulated, and unpredictable.¬ He has the nerve, and the right, of course, to sort of start with a clean slate and see it through.¬ For a senior member of the establishment, he never fakes anything.¬ No passages were thrown off or glossed over.¬ That I found very impressive and convincing, as a listener.

The Rondo was simple and beautiful.

The Haydn C Major was simply fabulous.¬ Very, very clever, clear as a bell, with a host of colors for the different themes and motives.

A renowned trumpeter and former member of the Chicago Symphony, describes what he calls “pianist time”.¬ He has Barenboim in mind, and “Pianist Time”¬ ¬ is the elusive, mysterious and inscrutable sense of tempo that piano players carry around with them.¬ They get away with it because of all of the solo performances that¬ take up much of their careers.¬ But when they are conducting, as Barenboim does, it makes for a head-scratching soup of bewildering tempo changes for the orchestra players who love a clear beat.

I was thinking of that last night, notably in the opening Haydn, where Brendel¬ took great liberties with rubato, ritardandos, and the like.¬ Brendel was very capricious, and it reminded me of how I play when absolutely no one is listening.

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