Thursday, April 06, 2006

Storied Piano

Bronfman gives a recital on "storied" piano. But that's not what caught my eye scanning thru the article. It was this bit about Balakirev's "Islamey"

''It has the reputation of being the single most difficult piece in the world," said Ledbetter. ''It is so difficult that the composer himself couldn't play it."

More here.

I'm not sure I'd say it's the "single" most difficult piece, it is wildly difficult and not very rewarding as music goes, but I wonder what is the single most difficult work for piano. I imagine it has no real answer. It's likely that its whatever happens to be sitting on your music desk at this moment. Whoever you are, wherever you are in your journey playing the piano.


Anonymous said...

"It is so difficult that the composer himself couldn't play it."

Well, that would be neither the first nor the last time that was the case. Here's another quote I have heard from various composers:

"Whaddya mean it's unplayable? It sounded just fine on my computer."

Margarita said...

Actually it's true, "Islamney" is widely considered as one of the most technically difficult works in piano literature. It's considered "a technical warhorse for the pianist."

This work was premiered by one of the greatest Russian pianist Nicolai Rubinstein. Franz Liszt played it too (I am sure he had no problems with its octaves, scales, and double notes :) ). Russian pianists are still one of the best interpreters of this work. Michael Pletnev in his "Pletnev Live at Carnegie Hall" on DG gives a nice performance of this piece. And already mentioned Yefim Bronfman recently recorded "Islamney" on Sony.

p.s. As far as I remember the Russian music history, Mili was never regarded as a virtuoso piano player. :)

Anonymous said...

I heard Bronfman play this recital last weekend at the Montalvo center in California, and for free (I knew that sad limp of mine would come in handy)! Needless to say, he made it seem effortless (or at least, made the two Beethoven 'quasi una fantasia' sonatas seem more difficult). Between the Islamey and the Gaspard, he spent most of the second half of the show with his hands crossed.

And, he encored with an extremely satisfying and minute Scarlatti sonata.

The Well Tempered Blog said...


That's too funny :)

Margarita, You're right about it being a warhorse. A person can always expect it to be among the handful of works that regularly turn up at piano competitions.

Anon, I'm jealous. Bronfman's a fav or mine.