http://i49.tinypic.com/1y71ck_th.jpgA good deal of what I have written here is related (sometimes only tangentially) to serious music. A few posts about interesting but not well-known musicians or composers are accompanied by live broadcast recordings, with download links in the comments. (If there is a problem with a link, or if you need to contact me for some other reason, you can email me at boomboomsky at gmail dot com. )
There are no commercial recordings on this blog.
A word of warning: Occasionally I use strong 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 strong language, then stay away from this blog.

January 22, 2012

Delusional young pianists






Sometimes I think that many young concert pianists are simply delusional.  Surely they must know that, to attract the relatively small number of people who go to piano recitals and buy piano recordings, they must compete against countless other young pianists with similar training, talent, and technical endowment.  To make matters worse, in the concert hall these youngsters also have to compete against the still living "giants of the keyboard", and on recordings against the living giants as well as the dead ones.

So, what does the young pianist do to improve his (or her) odds in this brutally competitive market?  Does he try to intrigue you with a rare opportunity to hear a live performance of some unjustly neglected piano music of the past, say a passionate proto-Romantic sonata by Dussek or Hummel?  Does he try to ignite your curiosity with a rarely heard work by an important 20th century composer, such as the melancholy first sonata of Roger Sessions, or one of Stockhausen's haunting Klavierstucke ,  or perhaps Elliott Carter's moody Night Fantasies?  Hell no!  He expects you to spend your time and money to attend a recital whose program consists entirely of pieces that have been played and recorded ad nauseam by just about every great, almost-great, and far-from-great pianist of the century.  A typical example is Cedric Tiberghian's recital in Hohenems (May 21, 2011), where he played Beethoven's Moonglight Sonata, Ravel's Gaspard, and Schumann's Kresleriana.

Now let me get this straight: The young pianist expects me to dress up, drive across town, pay for parking, pay for tickets, sit for two hours in the auditorium, and then take a long drive back home - all for the privilege of hearing the fucking Moonlight Sonata played by some sultry-looking, carefully groomed, and fashionably attired skinny metrosexual twenty-something???  I would pass on this kind of recital program even if the ticket included a free backstage blowjob from the artist during the intermission.  And I consider myself a fairly typical pianophile...

The point of all this is not that Cedric Tiberghien's  playing of tired "masterpieces" shows him to be a bad pianist or inadequate musician.  On the contrary, I think he is quite good.  The problem is that there are too many other young pianists who are at least as good as he is.  And most of them seem to be equally delusional in their belief that they can attain pianistic glory by starting off with recitals consisting of sorely overplayed and numbingly over-recorded segments of the piano repertoire.
     
   

5 comments:

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Boom,

Most of my purchases in recent years have been from pianists who specialize in playing modern, little known works: Gloria Cheng (I have all of her albums), R. Andrew Lee, Bruce Brubaker. Maybe there just aren't enough record buyers like me, and it's a safer bet to record the same old Beethoven, Mozart, etc.?

I have to think part of the problem is that classical music stations concentrate on playing the same old, same old -- so if you want to get your record heard, that's what you record. "Symphony at 7" on WCLV plays Mozart almost every night. I love Mozart, but why not a Sessions symphony, or at least a Shostakovich besides the Fifth?

Boom said...

Tom,

I know Cheng and Brubaker's playing - good musicians both. My library has a CD of Cheng playing Salonen and Lutoslawski (very good playing). And for quite some time I've had a recording by Brubaker where he paired Brahms pieces with the piano sonata by Eduard Steuermann. The latter is a wonderful piece of German expressionism from the late 1920s I believe.

Of course I don't expect young pianists to give recitals of ONLY contemporary or neglected music. I'd be delighted if they included one substantial piece along these lines, to dilute the boredom of having to sit through painfully familiar "masterpieces". Alas, many don't do even that little...

Noa Kageyama said...

Ha, nicely put. Are you familiar with Seth Godin's work in marketing? The tendency to follow the herd is an issue not just in music but in most every other field. Case in point, the iPad and HP/RIM/Samsung's attempts to copy the concept rather than innovate.

It does take some courage to stand apart from the crowd, but there does seem to be less competition on the edges (as well as artistic freedom and all that good stuff).

Boom said...

@ Noa Kageyama

Interesting implied suggestion (if I got it correctly): Juilliard and Curtis requiring some sort of marketing courses for their students, so as to give them at least a minimal grasp on the reality of "marketing themselves" in a competitive world...

I think Artur Schnabel and Edwin Fischer would have fainted at the mere suggestion... But then they lived in a different world...

Baal said...

I think Artur Schnabel and Edwin Fischer would have fainted at the mere suggestion... But then they lived in a different world...

----

Sure! Schnabel was at the
Hitler's collection,,,

strange,strange,boom