How do the good musicians put together to play the good works? Each has his or her personal strategies, and tends to maintain the technique quiet, a secret key to success.
One factor that distinguishes the delicate Benjamin Grosvenor, 28, from the remainder of the pack of younger star pianists is his intensive data of historic recordings. This listening has paid off in a spellbinding Liszt recording out on Decca on Friday, topped with a sometimes considerate account of the treacherous Sonata in B minor.
“I almost feel like you should know the notable recordings of a work like this,” Grosvenor stated of the sonata in a latest interview. “More than anything, it helps you understand what works and what doesn’t work. You react to some things positively and you react to some things negatively, and that fuels your imagination.”
Close listening introduced out the large vary of potentialities in a piece that presents an mental problem of interpretation as a lot as a punishing check of method. The piece is a Faustian battle between the diabolical and the divine; the query is how you can make it cohere over greater than 30 minutes.
There isn’t any single reply. The instance of Radu Lupu factors in one direction. “It has this great inevitability about it,” Grosvenor stated of Lupu’s interpretation. “In terms of the way he controls the pulse it’s quite symphonic, and also in the kinds of sounds he produces.”
Shura Cherkassky, a determine beloved of pianophiles whose impulsive, visionary performances had been so idiosyncratic that Grosvenor stated he would by no means dare imitate them, presents something else in a reside recording from 1965. “Sometimes it feels kind of improvisatory and sometimes he doesn’t quite do what’s written in the score,” Grosvenor stated. “But he somehow makes this miracle of his own unique narrative from it.”
Perils lurk whichever method a pianist turns. “The danger in pursuing this symphonic, quite rigid, controlled outlook is that it could quite easily become something more of an academic exercise than the fantastical piece that it is,” Grosvenor stated. “And obviously if you go along the Cherkassky route, you could make it sound like something that doesn’t make much sense.”
If Grosvenor efficiently traces a course between these extremes, he additionally takes inspiration from how his forebears have resolved the numerous difficulties in a piece of this scale. These are edited excerpts from the dialog.
What do you consider the opening bars of the sonata, that are so spare in comparison with what follows?
It’s foreboding, and mysterious, and a little bit bit threatening. It could be fairly attention-grabbing to simply line up eight recordings of the primary bar. For somebody who’s a music lover however who will not be that acquainted with placing a bit collectively, it’d simply be attention-grabbing to listen to how two notes can basically be interpreted in so many alternative methods.
There are many legitimate approaches. What Vladimir Horowitz does in a big corridor in his Carnegie recording, this type of demonic factor, works very nicely. Cherkassky’s is attention-grabbing; it appears like he’s improvising, prefer it’s one thing that’s simply come to him within the second, nevertheless it’s clearly aware as a result of he executes it in the identical method on the finish of the gradual motion as nicely.
I used to be aiming for one thing mysterious, virtually — so the notes should not too current. They’re fairly delicate, very very similar to plucked strings, the bass extra in it than the treble, like what Alfred Brendel does.
So comparisons with orchestral sounds assist you outline what you are attempting to attain, even in a piece as pianistic as this?
As a pianist you’ve been enjoying the piano your whole life; you have got a pure affiliation with piano sound. So it’s solely while you’re compelled to place it into phrases that you simply attempt to make these associations. But it’s an applicable solution to suppose, as a result of, for many composers, the piano is all the time attempting to mimic different devices, due to its nature as a percussion instrument. Again, it’s a line of thought that provides fireplace to the creativeness, and the colours that you simply then draw out.
One of the challenges within the piece is how you can create stress over the entire, and even simply over shorter intervals of double octaves, or steady fortissimo dynamics. You picked out a bit close to the beginning for instance.
In this double-octave passage there’s a number of fortissimo enjoying, and also you range that by way of dynamics, however the meter is similar for some time, with these steady quavers.
Horowitz, within the last rise and descent, simply pushes via. There’s a number of mistaken notes, nevertheless it’s uncooked. It’s exceptionally troublesome due to the octaves, however for those who can push via it in that method I feel it’s very efficient, all the best way to the bottom word on the piano.
So if you end up enjoying the piece reside, does ambiance matter greater than precision in passages like this?
Yes, that is music that’s in all probability not presupposed to be performed cleanly. Part of the battle is, it’s technically troublesome, however that’s what makes it thrilling. Someone stated of Horowitz that his enjoying will not be thrilling as a result of he performs quick, however as a result of he performs quicker than he can. In this music there’s a component of that. Lupu generates the stress differently; it’s stress by holding again, by making a restrict that you simply’re working towards.
Then the gradual motion poses fairly completely different challenges.
It’s magical music. The most unimaginable bit for me is that this ascending line in the appropriate hand, the scales after the climax. It’s essentially the most static level of the piece, and a groove must be discovered between static to the purpose of no movement, and discovering the magic that’s in it. Not to play it too casually. Claudio Arrau there’s very particular; it’s such an exquisite second with these triple pianissimos — discovering that stunning shade, and the place to take the time.
Then comes the fugue, a second after I’m all the time questioning how briskly a pianist goes to attempt to play. Is this one other place the place aura issues greater than accuracy?
The counterpoint must be clear. So it’s the purpose at which you’ll be able to nonetheless characterize it, and that time is completely different for every pianist, so long as it builds and builds step by step to the appropriate level.
Intellectually talking it’s not essentially appropriate, however I fairly like the concept of treating the primary 5 bars as a type of fanfare. They don’t carry sufficient to push ahead out of the gradual motion, so to me they inevitably sit someplace in between if you’re going to take it at that tempo. I just like the change of tempo there.
The magic, and the music, of the gradual motion return on the final web page.
It’s this last transition from darkness to mild: the rumbling within the left hand, then the best way that it ascends to the highest of the piano. Those diminished chords are little shards of sunshine, then it comes away to the very low notes, then these transcendent final chords. That’s what the final web page is about: transcendence. You can’t assist however suppose that the final word is an awakening from a dream.