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Originally Posted by wr
We have no way of judging the excellence of Bach's playing for ourselves, but we do have the scores for his compositions. So, obviously, the scores are why we (and many previous generations) remember him, regardless of what some his contemporaries might have said about his playing. Positing from that the idea that composers are superior to performers is not a valid argument, to my way of thinking. His scores persist through time; his playing has not and therefore it isn't going to be a useful point of comparison.

Not that it matters to the main argument regarding the relative values of composing vs. performing. If Bach was a better composer than performer, so what? It doesn't somehow prove that all composers are superior to all performers.

As an aside, I think that when some people in church complained about what Bach was doing at the organ, it was not about his ability to play the instrument, but about the excesses of his musical imagination as a composer.

That's the whole point. The reason why Bach or other composers are remembered is because they left an artistic legacy to humanity. As a performer, there were a number of equally good performers, so even if Bach was a top performers, he was just one out of many others. But if you want to consider that someone playing the WTC or the Opus 106 has an equivalent artistic value and contribution vs Bach or Beethoven, that makes no sense. The orchestras that are playing the 9th symphony is not made of exceptional perfomers, but the piece is.

BTW we have recordings of great pianists like Hoffman, and besides people like us in this forum and other piano afficionados, no one knows who they are, but everybody knows Bach and Mozart. In a 100 years, all the pianists of the early 20th century will be forgotten, because we have tons of pianists today that can play just as well. Even now, apart of a few selected people like us, no one is listening to these recordings. Just looking at the 300 or so recordings, which keep increasing year after year, of the Goldberg, we are submerged with excellent versions, but we still only have one Golberg piece. Now I dont deny that great pianists have also a great artistic sensibility in addition to outstanding technical skills, but they are exactly that, excellent performers.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
for good reasons.

That's part of the superior complex and putting words into past people's mouths thing. As in one limited view appearing to speak for all people.

Popularity trend is but 'one' reason only. Does not equate to quality etc of other peoples music.

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Haha, that wouldn't be the first time a certain user here is putting words in other people's mouths. He is notorious for that.


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Originally Posted by Rubens
Haha, that wouldn't be the first time a certain user here is putting words in other people's mouths. He is notorious for that.


This was the original thought:

There are certainly loads of insignificant composers whose works are almost never played for good reasons. (End quote)
—————————
Wouldn’t you agree that a number of composers that are never played is because there is superior music available? Of course, this is not universal as there are certainly excellent composers that have overlooked., a number of those are now being re-printed and being played. I just don’t find the comment unfairly skewed.

Sound like a fair assessment? When a post only has a small fragment posted, there is no sense of the context.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
What I and others have said is the great composers have more musical importance or higher level of musical genius than the great performers. And I think if one asked even the greatest pianists how they compared themselves to Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, etc. almost all or perhaps all of them would say they are almost insignificant by comparison.

An observation with which I entirely concur.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
There are certainly loads of insignificant composers whose works are almost never played for good reasons.

There appears to be a trend seen in at least some people to have this thing about 'insignificant'. Do you know why this extra word needs to be added? It always really looks like taking a cheap shot at people that did hard work and hard yards. If that's the label that you give to those particular composers, then do you consider yourself as significant? Or insignificant? ----- in terms of being a pianist, and/or a composer? Is your music and/or piano playing more significantly important than other people's music? If you know what I mean.

I mention this - because everybody that chooses to take those sorts of pot shots at composers (or groups of composers) should take a step back a bit and compare those composers with themselves. Some self-reflection required.

And - regarding individualistic versus score-following (without notes modification such as timing or notes themselves) ----- either or both is/are absolutely fine, when done with joy of making/generating music, with good intent.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Originally Posted by Taushi
So this idea that only the composer is a genius, and that a pianist is just a player for reproduction is false. There are many pianists who are equally as genius as the composers whose music they play. And their genius makes the composer’s music come alive. Sometimes in a way that even the composer couldn’t. And if anything, we should be encouraging pianists to tap into the gift of interpretation, not just rote reproduction.

Composing is not a greater skill than Interpreting. They are equal skills. A great composition in the hands of a poor interpreter is nothing. A great interpreter with a poor composition is nothing.

History proves us otherwise. We dont consider any of the past interpreters as geniuses as we do it for Bach or Mozart. We dont remember Bach because he was a great organ player. There were many great organ players in the time of Bach, but they are in the oblivion by now.

Who remembers of Ignaz Schuppanzigh (many people on this forum would probably not even know who he was), and some people do it is only because he created most of Beethoven quartets, in spite of the fact that he was a remarquable violonist. A century from now, all pianists names will be forgotten, except by a few specialists.

Thats because creating is more difficult than reproducing. And we, as a human collectivity, value more oustanding creative skills than playing skills. That was already the case a couple of millenniums ago with the Greek.

I disagree here. I think a main reason why some performer's in Bach's time are not remembered today is because there were no recordings around in which to bottle their greatness for posterity, and also - at this time - there were less people who ONLY performed, as opposed to dedicating themselves to bringing the works alive.

It's been nearly a century on, and names like Cortot, Paderewski, Hoffman, Anton Rubinstein, Busoni, Freidman and many others are revered in the hallmarks of great artists - and rightly so. A Chopin Mazurka in the hands of Ignaz Friedman or Maryla Jonas is a full-on display of the incredible pathos, wit, humor, and carefreeness of the human spirit that is in these works, while a performance of the same piece by a run-of the mill average pianist is a silly, banal dance tune that could leave people scratching their heads as to why Chopin was so great. Rachmaninoff himself said that Horowitz and Moiewswitch made his works sound "Better than he could". Listening back to back of Horowitz'z recording of Rach 3 vs Rachmaninoff's, the former was more responsible for making me fall in love with the work.

Performing at the highest possible level is an act of creation. The creative spirit of the performer is alive in every note played.

And while this is a different all together, there are certain reasons why performers in the 20th century might not have decided to compose when in fact they could have written at the same level as Bach, Chopin, Brahms, and Schubert, but decided to sublimate this energy into performing.

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Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
I disagree here. I think a main reason why some performer's in Bach's time are not remembered today is because there were no recordings around in which to bottle their greatness for posterity, and also - at this time - there were less people who ONLY performed, as opposed to dedicating themselves to bringing the works alive.

That is not only Bach period, you can extend it to the 19th century as well. Of course the fact that there is not a material legacy is a factor, but it is not the main reason. The main reason very simply that it is more accessible to play what already exists than to create something. There are plenty of oustanding interprets, but there is only one Mozart. There are also people who were composers and virtuoso but are not remembered today because what they composed was not outstanding. For example who knows who Antonio Bazzini is ? (I am sure you will look in Wiki) And yet he was a very famous virtuoso of the late 19th century who also composed.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
It's been nearly a century on, and names like Cortot, Paderewski, Hoffman, Anton Rubinstein, Busoni, Freidman and many others are revered in the hallmarks of great artists - and rightly so. A Chopin Mazurka in the hands of Ignaz Friedman or Maryla Jonas is a full-on display of the incredible pathos, wit, humor, and carefreeness of the human spirit that is in these works, while a performance of the same piece by a run-of the mill average pianist is a silly, banal dance tune that could leave people scratching their heads as to why Chopin was so great. Rachmaninoff himself said that Horowitz and Moiewswitch made his works sound "Better than he could". Listening back to back of Horowitz'z recording of Rach 3 vs Rachmaninoff's, the former was more responsible for making me fall in love with the work.

I think most of these people are only known in a very small cercle. They are certainly talented musicians. Anton Rubinstsein and Busoni were both excellent composers. Paderewski is known also for some other activities. Cortot left a legacy of teaching. If you ask who Hoffman was, even very educated people will not know (certainly none of my friends do), but of course everyone knows Mozart. For example I dont know who Maryla Jonas is ! To be honnest I prefer a good modern interpretation to Friedman ones which I dont find have anything unique. And there are plenty of oustanding pianists of the 19th or even 20th century that no one remembers and more important that no one listens to anymore. As good as some interpretations are, there are plenty of equally good ones made by modern pianists. In fact we produce every year a ton of outstanding pianists that dont find any work. We keep piling recordings of the same pieces over and over again. We pianists tend to put on a pedestal some pianists which we grew up with like Horowitz, but factually set aside the sentimental side of it, as good as he was, there are a number of equally good pianists and many that have a better technique.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
Performing at the highest possible level is an act of creation. The creative spirit of the performer is alive in every note played.

Like any human activities, there are people who have a superior talent. But being an oustanding executant is just that.

Originally Posted by Opus_Maximus
And while this is a different all together, there are certain reasons why performers in the 20th century might not have decided to compose when in fact they could have written at the same level as Bach, Chopin, Brahms, and Schubert, but decided to sublimate this energy into performing.

That is possible, but it is what it is. You cant evaluate based on theoretical assumptions. Since they never wrote anything, we will never know. Maybe I could have been another Bach, if I had chosen to be a musician ! That is a very comforting thought !


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A good counter example would be Paganini. Though he was also a prolific composer, he is better known as a virtuoso. His pieces are not often played though he composed nearly 250. And composers used some his themes like Listz of course.

I think his fame is coming more from his historical role than because of his musical interpretations. He contributions are mainly in the violin technique which he greatly developed and also being probably the first very internationally visible virtuoso who was primarily admired for his technique. As we know Liszt used him as a model for his own career.

There are some other cases of similar nature of people who marked history by being the typical representative of a new trend, new techniques, innovations of various sorts which they contributed to develop.


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Being true to a period’s stylistic conventions, the composer’s wishes, and one’s inner voice (all while playing with a very high technical standard)…
Terribly difficult bullseye to hit convincingly. Especially in a world where everyone has played and recorded everything.

When I was learning new works as a violinist, I eventually stopped listening to recordings, and advised my students to stop listening as well. At least until they had puzzled through a piece and made their own decisions based on their knowledge of style and the inherent logic of the music. Listening and internalizing too often leads to slavish, unconscious (and often irreversible) imitation.

My own belief is that a successful, compelling interpretation shouldn’t come off as individualistic, but rather inevitable—as if there’s simply no other way to do it. Perhaps this is why Gould’s Bach is so compelling.

The elements of interpretation are pretty simple: timing, articulation, dynamics are most of it. For me, most interpretations fall flat, especially in Bach, because so few musicians really think about articulation. It’s as true for pianists as for violinists—the articulations just kind of happen how they happen to happen.

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Originally Posted by Scott Cole, RPT
My own belief is that a successful, compelling interpretation shouldn’t come off as individualistic, but rather inevitable—as if there’s simply no other way to do it. Perhaps this is why Gould’s Bach is so compelling.
Agreed. Although this is super hard to pull off.

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Originally Posted by pablobear
Does individualistic playing come from selfishness? Or starting to just not care about the composer? How is it able to be justified in the times of piano competitions standards nowadays?

Individualistic playing can be warranted: as long as the changes are made in good taste, I'm fine hearing it.

Raymond Lewenthal once played a Czerny ètude in as an encore to an all-Liszt recital, and changed the text. All his changes sounded better than the original ètude in question (the D major ètude, Op. 740, No. 3).


Music starts at 8:26"

Another example, though this time from yours truly, who is nowhere near Raymond Lewenthal's level of virtuosity.

In Liszt's Ètude in D-flat (nicknamed "Un sospiro"), there's a teeny tiny snippet that's physically impossible for me to fathom, so I've texturally rearranged that area in the style of the same composer's Legend No. 1. It actually sounds a little nicer this way, like a ripple in water. (I do not have a recording I can share at the moment, but I do intend on sharing in the future when I'm more confident in myself.)

Is it a little dangerous? Yes, absolutely. I try to stick to the score as much as possible. That said, if the textural change is such that it is in good taste, I will defend anyone's decision to make that change.

With a few exceptions to the rule of course: for example, no one should be out making textural changes to the Emperor concerto of Beethoven. Good god, do you know how awful that would sound?

Last edited by FarazIsLivingLife; 06/13/22 09:24 PM. Reason: timestamp

Pianist-in-training who changes his signature...alot.

I believe certain composers and their pieces in the less-played repertoire ought to be re-examined.
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