Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts on the opening concert in San Jose

The program of last Thursday’s concert reveals such a wide array of moods--from the storminess of the first sonata’s outer movements, to the comparative gentleness of the Op. 14/1!  Even more impressive is Beethoven's mastery in so many different compositional styles. Compare, for instance, the breadth, brilliance, yet relatively simple texture of the Waldstein, to the thorny, compact, pervasively contrapuntal Op. 101, which could (and should, IMHO) be a string quartet or quintet. How many of us, if we knew only one of those works, could intuit that the same composer wrote the other?

During the recital, I felt a bit like an athlete at the moment of a competition. The principal goal at the actual performance is not to duplicate the best of one’s practicing over the past several weeks, but to make use of the acquired insights and technical improvement so as to better access whatever inner creativity can be summoned up at the moment. I’ve now heard the “rushes” and hey, they ain’t all that bad (in Bob Silverman talk, that’s good). The touch-up sessions should take care of the most egregious clams, but it is already clear that, if this set sees the light of day as a recording, it will indeed be a live performance, warts and zits included, not a carefully edited studio product.

Earlier on these pages, I wrote that this traversal would be different than my earlier one.  For a short while, I tried to deliberately introduce differences, but quickly learned that I could not. Differences, there will be, but they will have to be the result of new or enhanced ideas about the pieces that reveal themselves through further study of the score and a striving for more technical perfection.  Or by the simple fact that I am 15 years older than I was when I first approached many of these works.  One cannot “fake a difference.”  Self-conscious phrasing creates caricatures, not portraits.  Choosing a tempo that is incompatible with one’s inner clock never works. A tempo can never so slow as to impede the flow of ideas, or so fast that the ideas don’t have the opportunity to breathe, or that the listener cannot adequately digest them.

And now, back to Op. 54.  I love the piece this time around…

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