Despite my Perfect Girlfriend's long list of virtues, what I remember most vividly about the time I spent with her is my persistent feeling of boredom. She had everything I could ever ask for in a woman except personality. There was something so anonymous about her that when our relationship ended I only felt a sense of relief as I went back to dating cynical secretaries, neurotic two-bit actresses, disillusioned MILFs, and tattooed heavy metal chicks - all so abundantly distributed along the coast of Southern California as if God himself wanted to make life easy for a young guy of modest means and immodest libido.
To be reminded of my Perfect Girlfriend by a piano recital, it takes a very special pianist indeed! The pianist must have it all: scholarly respect for the score, unforced and well-oiled technique, aversion to interpretative eccentricities, intelligent repertoire choices, and much more. And the pianist must combine these virtues to produce performances in which not a single note is out of place, yet which also are so lacking in personality as to make Alfred Brendel's playing sound almost flamboyant by comparison. At present I can think of no better candidate for the pianistic counterpart of my Perfect Girlfriend than the Austrian pianist Till Fellner; and I think his recent live broadcasts (e.g., from Wigmore Hall and WGBH Boston) offer ample support for this nomination.
Of course I'm fully aware that Fellner is a darling of many critics, with Anthony Tommasini all but drooling on his computer keyboard when writing adulatory fanboy reviews of Fellner's recitals and recordings.* For all I know, every music lover in the world may have a poster of Till Fellner hanging on a bedroom wall, in which case the only reaction to this post will be along the lines of Fuck you, Boom, you fucking pretentious philistine!
So be it. I usually hedge my bets when it comes to widely admired pianists whose playing leaves me unmoved (Argerich is one). But with Till Fellner I circle the wagons, dig in my heels, and draw a line in the sand.
Till Fellner is a Perfect Pianist.
* In fairness to Tommasini I should note that he also drools over other pianists who are relatively young, boyishly handsome, stylishly dressed, and keep their playing free of outsize gestures. He is the only critic I know who found it appropriate to praise a pianist for wearing a "stylish jacket"(!) in his laudatory review of the pianist's numbingly dull performance of the Brahms B-flat concerto. (The pianist was Leif Andsness, then still relatively young and 'boyishly handsome'.)