Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Didn't He Wear A Wig?

It is quite true that many a pianist makes the woeful mistake of underestimating the difficulties of negotiating Mozart's music. But another error, one less easily forgiven, arises not from the content but frame a musician applies to Mozart's music. And so it seems to me an excellent review by Wolfram Goertz gets it just about right.

" He made us suffer. We wore ourselves out rehearsing his music. He lay there, so shiny and pure, the shimmer of his enigmatic beauty was so unbearable. We were simply too young for him. When, to our relief, Beethoven's booming epics were set down in front of us we put Mozart, the apollonian stranger, aside.....For Mozart you could hardly be mature enough, and those who were had a hard time finding their way back to him."

Goertz serves up bruising, and well deserved, comments on a couple of recent recordings of Mozart's music. On pianist Martin Stadtfeld's recording of Mozart piano concerti: "Stadtfeld seems so lost that you want to send him right back to Bach before any more damage is done. Here he has composed his own cadenza and its banging chords and unrefined sequences are reminiscent of an early Beethoven who just failed his composition exam." And of violinist Hillary Hahn: "With virtually every stroke she shows that her strings are made of steel and can be electrified unpleasantly and continuously by short, sharp shocks of vibrato".

Goertz may be on to something in his observation that: "Perhaps where Hahn and Stadtfeld go wrong is that they don't have teachers any more. Or if they do, they're the type who have to be able to do the whole repertoire, from Bach to Prokofiev. For Mozart, general scholarship isn't enough. He demands more labour-intensive, exclusive attention."

Read the rest of this fine essay here.

A couple of Mozart recordings I love that I'm not sure Goertz would approve of are by pianist Fazil Say. Say's recording of Mozart's piano concerti 12,20, 23 is a keeper. And his no. 20 shows just how far off the mark most pianists fall with this particular concerto. But never far from my CD player is his recording of Mozart sonatas and variations. This is Mozart with wit and blood in the veins.

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