good deal of what I have written here is related (sometimes only tangentially) to serious music. Some posts are accompanied by live broadcast recordings. To contact me, email at boomboomsky at gmail dot com.
There are no commercial recordings on this blog.
A word of warning: Occasionally I use strong (and insensitive) language in referring to various arrogant and incompetent assholes who managed to get on my nerves. Or simply because it gets a point across with greater directness and transparency. If you are squeamish about such language, then stay away from this blog.

September 8, 2011

RON REGEV at Ravinia Festival (2007 - 2011)

R   O   N       R   E   G   E   V

Bennett Gordon Hall
R a v i n i a    F e s t i v a l  
2007 - 2011 

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 2 in D minor, Op. 121
Alexi Kenney, violin

Sonata for Cello and Piano
Tony Rymer, cello

Sonata for Cello and Piano no 2 in G minor, Op. 5 no 2
Gilad Kaplansky, cello

Sonata for Viola and Piano no 2 in E flat major, Op. 120 no 2
Wei-Ting Kuo, viola
Lachrymae for Viola and Piano, Op. 48 
Luke Fleming, viola

Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat major, Op. 18
Tessa Lark, violin

Sonatina for Violin and Piano in G minor, D 408/Op. 137 no 3
Diana Cohen, violin

Sonata for Violin and Piano no 9 in A major, Op. 47 "Kreutzer"
Caitlin Tully, violin

Sonata for Cello and Piano no 5 in D major, Op. 102 no 2
Gilad Kaplansky, cello

George Szell is the only other pianist whose playing I find so captivating despite the fact that, like Ron Regev's playing, it is known to me only through his performances of chamber music.  This is not to say that Ron Regev's pianism is similar to Szell's.  Regev's phrasing is more spontaneous, his tone is richer and warmer, with a proverbial "golden ring" to it, and his chords are voiced less analytically (albeit without any loss of transparency).  For me the similarity between these two pianists comes at a more general, abstract level, and I would describe it in terms of authority radiated by their playing.  This admittedly elusive notion involves far more than just unimpeachable technical security in the handling of the piano part.  There is a feeling that the pianist knows the full meaning of every note in every instrumental part of the piece, and that each note of the piece seems to fall into place under the guidance of the piano part.  I certainly don't suggest that most other pianists do not bring this kind of knowledge to their performances, only that their playing rarely makes me feel so strongly that they do.  (Richter's and Serkin's recordings of chamber music surely radiate this kind of authority, but I am talking here about pianists known to me only through their performances of chamber music.)

All of the young string players partnered by Regev are very talented, and if some of them occasionally sound a bit reticent, this only adds a degree of charming chastity to the performances.  Perhaps I am aesthetically perverse, but when 19th century chamber music is played with absolute, over-rehearsed (and usually studio-manufactured) perfection of ensemble, it sounds unattractively slick and even counterfeit to my ears.  In any case, the overall level of musicianship is uniformly high, and in some cases no less than world-class.  One of my personal favorites is the performance of Beethoven's Op.5 No.2, where the Israeli cellist Gilad Kaplansky's arctic purity of phrasing, sculpted with a strikingly individual throaty, reedy tone, turned this familiar cello sonata into a nearly heartbreaking experience for me.  The other favorite of mine is the earlier posted violin sonata of Franck, where the violinist Tessa Lark makes the music sound more modern and more communicative than any other string player I've heard in this piece (and that includes cello arrangements).    

And finally there is the quality of recorded sound whose naturalness and realism are simply addictive for me.  (One exception is Beethoven Op.102 No.2, where Kaplansky's cello is balanced in such a way that its sound image is blocking the piano.)  Compared to these live and unedited recordings from Ravinia's Bennett-Gordon Hall, even the best engineered studio recordings of the same pieces sound lifeless.  In fact, the more the hi-fi credentials of commercial recordings are hyped in their CD booklets - Zillion Bits & Khz! Super Duper Mapping! High Definition! 3D Resolution! 360 Surround! Blah Blah Blah - the more lifeless and ugly the actual sounds coming out of my speakers or headphones turn out to be.  Or so it has been in my experience.


john schott said...


I borrowed a dvd documentary of George Szell from a friend a while back - I no longer remember what the name of it was, but I think it was essentially a TV show from the fifties. At one point we see Szell rehearsing Berg's violin concerto at the piano with, I think, Cleveland's concertmaster. This brief excerpt was so amazingly alive for me, and I have wondered why. The piece, the pianism? It's a short moment, perhaps only a minute or two, but bam! it sure stuck out. It's the only Szell at the piano I've heard. Maybe you could reccomend others? Thanks as ever.

Boom said...


Szell made commercial recordings of several Mozart violin sonatas - in stereo with his concertmaster Drurian (CBS), and earlier (in mono on Vanguard) with Szigeti, who was badly past his prime, alas.
Then there is an unforgettable mono recording of Mozart piano quartets with the Budapest Qt (CBS).
There also are a couple of live recordings of him from the Library of Congress recitals with the Budapest Qt: if I recall correctly they include a Mozart piano quartet, Brahms and Schubert. The sound is not all that good, but the playing still comes through with great impact, I think.
There also are some video clips of Szell giving master classes to young conductors (Jimmy Levine is one of them), with the old George "doing the orchestra" at the piano and the young guys conducting. Nothing complete of course - a few bars here and there - but again I thought it was overwhelming, just as you did from that short video excerpt you saw.