January 27, 2012
This may get my avatar pasted on many dartboards, but I think only a juvenile mind can be fascinated by music whose principal aim is to show how to keep an orchestra busy with a single triad for nearly half an hour at a stretch. Which is what Bruckner's symphonies offer in abundance. And for many elderly maestros these symphonies also offer a pleasurable and socially respectable way of regressing to the wide-eyed mindset of their teenage years - the years when metaphysical significance seemed to be attached to even the simplest pleasures, be they an 80-minute long Bruckner symphony blasted in the basement of your parents' house, or a 5-minute long handjob administered by your college sweetheart in the deserted basement of the University library.
January 24, 2012
In science and mathematics building on the work of others to obtain deeper discoveries and more powerful explanations is essential to progress in these fields. But even if your results reach much deeper and wider than those of your older colleagues, this in no way negates the value of the latter's contributions to the discipline.
In music, on the other hand, things can be strikingly different. If someone takes the formal, stylistic, thematic, and harmonic elements of your compositions and uses them to create deeper, richer, and more powerful music, chances are good that he will get all the credit from posterity, while you will end up being royally fucked. Your music will be all but unknown to future generations of music lovers because it will be ignored by performers, dismissed by composition teachers, overlooked by record companies, and denigrated (if mentioned at all) by popular accounts of the history of music.
January 22, 2012
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.
January 9, 2012
Years ago my then girlfriend and I had dinner at a once popular Los Angeles restaurant in the hills above Sunset Boulevard. A few tables from where we were sitting I saw a muscled pygmy whose face looked annoyingly familiar, but whose name I could not recall. A little later I almost choked on my lobster ravioli because I suddenly realized that the pygmy was a very famous action movie star. Seen from a few feet away, however, this silver screen superman projected all the menacing authority of a bipedal hamster on a high protein diet. After that sighting I never could watch the guy's movies again without laughing...