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Beethoven Hammerklavier & Moonlight Sonatas – Murray Perahia

Murray Perahia has spent a lot of time with Beethoven throughout his long and successful career. Still, it was only when he passed the 70-year mark that he felt ready to perform and record the “Hammerklavier” — a sonata which is something of the ultimate test of a pianist’s technique, stamina, and musical understanding.

An Unsentimental but Still Expressive Experience

In his recently released album, Perahia couples the Hammerklavier Sonata, op 106 with the Moonlight Sonata, op 27 no 2; the juxtaposition of these two very contrasting works seems to highlight just how limitless and groundbreaking Beethoven was as a composer for the piano. Add Perahia’s unsentimental yet expressive playing, and suddenly even the old Moonlight turns into something of a new experience.

“… his insights into the motivations behind the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata are absolutely remarkable. Here we find an Aeolian harp – or what Beethoven’s idea of one may have been – and some imaginative associations with nothing less than Romeo and Juliet.” — Jessica Duchen

A Fast and Thrilling Ride

The Hammerklavier can feel like an overwhelming structure to get lost in, but here it’s a thrilling ride, sweeping you along. Perahia’s tempos are fast, but the music never feels hurried, thanks to his faultless technique and tasteful rubato. The slow movement has calm, tenderness and poise but it never loses its sense of direction. The sound is warm, rich and resonant without obscuring the impressive clarity of articulation — just listen to the concluding fugue, which is a real feat of transparency.

Doubtless, it’s been worth the wait to hear Perahia in this repertoire!

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Perahia Plays Beethoven Moonlight and Hammerklavier| Play album >> | Download CD cover >> |

Recording: Berlin, Funkhaus NalepastraĂźe, Saal 1, 11/2016 (op. 106) & 7/2017 (op. 27 no. 2)

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Sheet music to download and print

Beethoven Moonlight Sonata

Beethoven Hammerklavier Sonata - piano sheet music


/david
 
     

How to Play Piano Chords

Do you want to know how to play chords on piano? This page will provide you with the best online chord resources. Where to look depends on your purpose.

Getting Started

Do you want to quickly figure out the notes of a specific chord? Then visit one of the many sites with piano chord charts. Here are two of the best ones:

8notes.com/piano_chord_chart/
This is a classic chord chart, easy to understand and navigate. The site also has a very good music theory section. A nice feature is the Chord finder, where you can enter note names and find out which chord they create.

pianochord.com/list-of-chords
The best part of this site is the function allowing you to shift the voicing of the chords. In short, you can study how a certain chord looks and sounds when the notes are not stacked closely as in most charts, but spread out in different octaves.

Learn more about Piano Chords

Would you like to learn more about piano chords and how to use them? Well, there is a lot of information out there, easy to find but perhaps not always so easy to put into practice. You need a bit of background information to understand the principles behind creating chords. Some of the piano chord sites won’t tell you enough about this. Others confuse you with too much theory where it isn’t needed. Here’s a short list of piano chord resources on the internet – all very useful, but for slightly different purposes.

zebrakeys.com/lessons/beginner/chords/
Beginner’s lessons. Teaches you the major chord and the three primary chords needed to play a great number of songs. You learn the chords by memorizing how they look and feel on the keyboard. Don’t go here for theory.

looknohands.com/chordhouse/piano/
In a way, this is just another chord chart. But if you already know a bit about theory, you will find the little summary of details at the bottom very useful, listing the intervals, half-steps and notes used for each chord type. You can also choose between strict or simplified spelling of the note names (which means you can avoid confusing stuff like double-sharps and double-flats etc.)

piano-keyboard-guide.com/piano-chords.html
Endless resources for pianists who like to read. You can pick up a lot of theory here, but explanations are sometimes unnecessarily wordy and repetitious. Although the free content will probably last you a lifetime, there are also lots of recommendations to buy various courses or books, which some may find annoying.

youtube.com/watch?v=gmvwZRwn-j0
One of the most popular piano chord tutorials on Youtube. Aimed at beginners – “Learn four chords to play hundreds of songs”Âť – it’s both inspirational and useful. Among other things, it tells you how so called inversions (moving the lowest note of the chord up an octave) can be used in practice.

Chords vs Scales

In your quest to learn piano chords, sooner or later you will find out that chords and scales are more or less two sides of the same coin. In other words, if you haven’t already done so, learn a bit about the major and minor scale. Knowing how to construct a scale will also enable you to form all sorts of piano chords. Here are two short lessons explaining the basic theory behind scales:

Whole and half steps in scales:
musictheoryfundamentals.com/MusicTheory/intervals_part1.php

The major scale:
www.8notes.com/school/theory/the_major_scale.asp

Once you know a thing or two about scales and the concept of raising or lowering notes by half steps, the endless chord charts will begin to make more sense. You will be able to use the them to quickly understand different chord types rather than painstakingly memorize one chord at a time.


/david
 
     

The Art of Visionary Discovery – Interview with Enrico Pompili

A native of Bolzano, Italian pianist Enrico Pompili won several national competitions before being one of the finalists at the Dublin International Piano Competition. In 1994 he was second to Viktor Lyadov at the Hamamatsu Competition, and the following year he was awarded the top prize at the XIII Paloma O’Shea Competition. This success launched an international career starting from 1996. An ardent explorer of contemporary repertoire Pompili has put the spotlight on for example Niccolò Castiglioni on the Brilliant label, Alberto Ginastera’s complete piano works, and works by Alberto Bonera (Phoenix Classics). He has also released a collection of solo and two-piano works by American composer Michael Glenn Williams on the Stradivarius label.

Patrick Jovell: Enrico, your career has emerged in a very personal way since your piano competition prizes in the 1990s. You have put focus on lesser known repertoire and recorded albums with music by Ginastera, Castiglioni, and Michael Glenn Williams, among others. Tell me about your choice of focus, in relation to presenting interpretations from the standard repertoire, which is a huge market in itself.

Enrico Pompili: My favorite field, as you noticed, is the music of the 20th century and contemporary. This is mostly for two reasons. First, because this music is chronologically closer to the present times, and represents them more explicitly. Second, because it has been played less frequently, and doesn’t feel so much – or doesn’t feel at all – the effect of a “story of the interpretation”, which often influence our interpretations, especially of the music of the 19th century. This partial – or even total – lack of habit in dealing with this music allows a more rigorous approach to the text; and at the same time a more open field for the interpretation of that text, and for the imagination. For these reasons, I feel absolutely more inclined to the music of this period than the preceding ones. But this is not really correct, because I’m also into playing classical and pre-classical music. I don’t feel so comfortable when playing romantic music, although I also deal with romantic composers. But when I do, I play a smaller list of compositions, and often not the most celebrated ones.

PJ: You had a traditional schooling, with renowned teachers representing different historical backgrounds. Yet you feel that the contemporary language comes natural to you. Your toolbox is traditional, but which new ways do you explore pianistically through your contemporary projects? The differences in music styles are evident for the listener, but do you treat the contemporary text and material differently as an interpreter?

EP: There is no difference – at least, no greater difference than for example between romantic and classical music. The “toolbox” is principally the knowledge of different styles, and the meaning of the musical elements of these styles. To put it very simple: the “romantic” sound is different from the “classical” sound; the tempo of a menuet of the Baroque is totally different from the tempo of a neo-classical one, etc.

Having said that, the two aspects I instinctively follow in facing the contemporary text are the sound and the language. The sound is revealing, especially in my understanding of music betraying an explicit or hidden bond with the symbolist tradition, or anyway, evocating the inner world (my inclination, among the styles of the early 20th century, to impressionist music is not coincidental). In this case, without overlooking other structural aspects, I focus my attention on the sound and let it to suggest to me the interpretative way.

In more abstract music, I choose a more formal way – seeking, grasping or creating bonds between the elements of the text. For example, when I worked on the Françoise Variationen of Franco Donatoni, I concentrated my work into establishing relations between the many little “cells” of which this music is built. In different words, the interpretative crux of that piece was placed in the pauses between the cells.

In both cases – sound or language – I find the way through an attentive hearing. Another interesting experience concerning the “linguistic” aspect: I was invited years ago to collaborate as pianist in a master-class of composition in which were tested some aleatory techniques. [aleatory music: music in which some element of the composition is left to chance.] The compositions were rather short and often they didn’t convince the composers themselves. My challenge was to find possible relations between the elements, and so to create an “itinerary” in which there was a sense. When I found it, the music revealed an intimate linguistic cohesion, that surprised their authors.

This was obviously a borderline case, but it illustrates the meaning of the word “imagination” I used before, concerning interpretation.

PJ: Your recording with piano works of Niccolò Castiglioni (1932-96) from 2011, re-released 2017 on Brilliant Classics, contains an interesting and creative profile seeking booklet text on the composer by Paolo Castaldi. As a student of both Gulda and Zecchi, we understand that Castiglioni had a vast knowledge of the piano. How would you describe his way of composing for the instrument?

EP: The figure of Castiglioni has always fascinated me for the coherence of his music with his internal world. While many composers of his generation went on with the experimentations within that musical environment, interesting but also somewhat aggressive, known as avant-garde, Castiglioni soon detached himself from it. The spirituality that inspired his musical world couldn’t get along with the materialism that dominated the avant-garde, or with the musical products generated by this way of thinking. This distance lead him to develop a language in which, in my opinion, sound is the generative element; and also lead him to revisit classical forms. This predominance of the “concrete” aspect compared to the “idea”, is already strongly present in his compositions of the late 1950s, when Castiglioni was participating in the commotions of Darmstadt. “Cangianti”, of this period, is revealing of his poetics and of his vital approach to the instrument: it’s a piece full of colours and youthful enthusiasm, and piano-wise very well written. His subsequent isolation certainly had some influence on his piano writing, making it more essential. From this point of view, “Cangianti” remains his most luxuriant piano piece, yet the poetics of the following pieces remains the same: the “castiglionian” sound is always recognizable, both on the piano and on the other instruments. Olivier Messiaen, another composer of strong spirituality and who too used the piano as an instrument which can create colours, much appreciated the “light” of Castiglioni’s sound. Castiglioni was certainly a complex personality, and his wanting to isolate himself (probably connected to a form of autism) often gave rise to a smile in those who knew him, but as a composer he was an authority. I have found in Paolo Castaldi, he too an important composer and a great friend of Castiglioni’s, not only an extraordinary admiration towards him, but also a deep affection. I wanted to ask Castaldi to write the biography in the booklet, because it seemed to me that he was the person who had most deeply understood Castiglioni and his music.

Listen to the album Castiglioni: Piano Works on Spotify.

Listen to samples from the album Digital Animation (2009) by Michael Glenn Williams

From the Digital Animation two pianos recording sessions


/nilsjohan
 
     

French Pianist Goes Wild in German Chorale

As a combination of supreme musicianship and Seasonal Celebrations, what would be more suitable than a traditional German Lutheran Chorale in the hands of the sensational French pianist Lucas Debargue, who is also known as an outstanding improviser and composer?

Here is a video from the annual German music prizes; ECHO KLASSIK Awards in October 2017 in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, where he received the award for Young Artist/Piano.

Debargue was discovered through his performances at the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition held in Moscow in year 2015. Although placing only fourth in the final round, he was the only musician across all disciplines who was awarded with the coveted Moscow Music Critic’s Prize as a pianist who’s ”incredible gift, artistic vision, and creative freedom have impressed the critics as well as the audience”.

Since then his career took off and he has been heard with leading orchestras in the most prestigious concert halls of the world such as the Grand Hall of Tchaikovsky Conservatory and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall and St Petersburg Philharmonic Hall, Theatre des Champs Elysées, Salle Gaveau and Paris Philharmonic, Conservatory of Milan, Wigmore Hall and Royal Festival Hall in London, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Prinzregententheater in Munich and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Konserthuset in Stockholm, Carnegie Hall in New York and further prestigious concert halls in Tokyo, Osaka, Chicago, Montréal, Toronto, Seattle, Mexico, Beijing, Taipei, Shanghai, Seoul.

Debargue plays at Echo

More Lucas Debargue:

Sign up (for free) with Medici.tv and enjoy Debargue’s Vuitton recital (until December 30)

Trailer from Debargue’s latest album for Sony Classical featuring works by Schubert and Szymanowski:

Listen to the album:

NEW! Click the album cover to listen to the complete album:
Andsnes plays Sibelius Piano Music
(This is a new feature available for Gold members of pianostreet.com)

/patrick
 
     

Valentina Lisitsa on Searching for the Rachmaninoff Affinity

When Valentina Lisitsa came to Stockholm to play Rachmaninoff’s third piano concerto, it was a welcome fact not only for all her fans but also for anybody well aware of the enormous challenge this concerto means for any performer. In 2013 Lisitsa released her Complete Rachmaninoff Concertos on Decca and therefor this was a rare chance for Piano Street’s Patrick Jovell not to talk to her about YouTube but… Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Patrick Jovell: Tell me about your relationship to Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Valentina Lisitsa: Well, basically I think Rachmaninoff had the same problem I had. Stories tell that he learned pieces very quickly and he would fake his practice and was easily procrastinating tasks and would rather go and skate with his friends than indulge in hard work. With me, it was the same when young as I was very advanced and what took other people three months to learn I did in three days. It was easy for me to be on top of the class, so between exams and exams, I could basically do nothing. My family didn’t have a clue thinking I was practicing while reading books for example.

Valentina Lisitsa and Patrick Jovell in front of a portrait of Sergey Rachmaninoff at the Stockholm Concert House.

Valentina Lisitsa and Patrick Jovell in front of a portrait of Sergei Rachmaninoff at the Stockholm Concert Hall.

PJ: You were both emigrants from the East, Russia and the Soviet Union.
VL: Yes, the same situation with Rachmaninoff and me happened when we emigrated to the West – strange to talk about him like this – but he came from a very protected life in Russia with a good position and didn’t have to work really hard and could focus on just to create.
When he comes to the West, he realizes he has to work and consequently play concerts. So he came to the West without having much repertoire. The same problem as with me. All my education was competition driven and then you cover your base with this kind of competition repertoire and stay with that because succumbing to a competition life other repertoire is not needed. I was coming from a shelter situation where you go from competition to competition. So not until I got real management I found myself working as a kind of ambulance as you get your breaks playing concerts for people who have cancelled on short notice. This is very stressful because you can never say I never played this or that piece. You can never risk they won’t call again. So step by step I built a repertoire of concertos which now has grown to a large number, however not meaning I always play them.

PJ: Your Rachmaninoff Complete Concertos (incl. the Paganini Rhapsody) is a tremendous project which makes one think in terms of a project reflecting a lifetime. How many of the concertos did you play since an early age?

VL: Only one, the second concerto was a part of my competition repertoire, a work I literally can pull out of my pocket and play at any time and now Rach 3 is going the same way as I have played it so many times.

PJ: We have all these stories about pianists working a whole life to prepare this enormous work. How was your relationship to the third?

VL: I was answering this young boy who told me that he was practicing Rach 3 and found it so difficult as it made him so emotional. This makes me think of a picture/caricature of Liszt sitting playing at the piano but his head is going all the way up over the clouds or another story about the great singer Chaliapin, who apart from being a fantastic singer also was a brilliant actor who was able to convince anyone about anything. At the same time, he could split his person and go privately nasty. We are here talking about a double personality. One person who suffers all emotions and one who is the cool observer. That is what this piece does to you. You become two persons – it’s not bi-polar though (laughs).

PJ: So you mean that the difference between the second and third is huge?

VL: The second is the most perfect in terms of composition. Not too long and not too short, popular melodies and also a bit boring. As a performer, you cannot risk breaking out from this construction. It is dangerous to get too over-sentimental or overly fast. The third is like life. You never know where it takes you, it always comes differently no matter what you plan. Different orchestras, different conductors and so on. Every time you relive the piece in that sense.

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto no 3, introduction:

PJ: The famous story about Gustav Mahler conducting the third with Rachmaninoff as soloist in New York in 1909 tells about how great respect Mahler had for this concerto forcing the orchestra to lengthy and rigorous rehearsals on the orchestral parts. What can we learn from this?

VL: Well, this concerto is much more give and take. More interactive, which is great as you feed on what the orchestra does. For instance, take the last quiet moment – reminiscent of the first movement – and everything depends on what the woodwind does, you cannot change it, it depends on what they give you.

PJ: You are a very dynamic performer and you have done a tremendous journey through the Rachmaninoff concerto cycle including the Rhapsody. The first concerto is a youth work, the second a masterpiece of compositional balance. Yuja Wang has mentioned that she sees an improvisational base in the material in the third concerto. Which was your base for approaching this monumental work?

VL: The problem is when people are talking about Rachmaninoff that we actually talk so much about style, our traditions tell us how Bach is supposed to sound or how Beethoven and Mozart are supposed to sound. We feel how they should sound even though we have never heard them. With Rachmaninoff we have a unique case; we have a great composer who was arguably one of the greatest pianists, playing with top orchestras, he was a good conductor working on a level where he easily could communicate what he wanted. So let’s be Sherlock Holmes and just assume that he was in a position where he could add what he wanted or deduct what he didn’t want. With this in mind, his own recordings are very much a proof of what he wanted. He changed things often, substituted dynamics, chords, phrase endings and so on.

PJ: What about the cuts done in performances which were evidently done in the third concerto’s youth?

VL: It has to do with the work length. Of course we have the lengthy Brahms’ B-flat major concerto and the pressure to fit a certain size for recording. Rachmaninoff said that when they for this reason made cuts in his second symphony it was like cutting his body and flesh, yet everybody was doing it. His music was often felt like being too long.

PJ: Can we interpret this as disposition of too much emotion or what?

VL: Perhaps, people were not ready at that point to accept it. Nowadays when we live in a higher tempo, we are used not to modify or doing cuts.

PJ: Stephen Hough once wrote about musical declamation and how to achieve a climax in romantic music through doing the opposite.

VL: We should listen to Rachmaninoff’s playing and we will see his formula as easy as 1-2-3, very specific way of phrasing, specific way of building structure connecting and achieving climax on certain notes. We find everything in his recordings. It happens often when I play with great maestros and I ask them to start the first movement in Rachmaninoff’s tempo, that I get the reaction ¨Oh no, he plays it too fast¨. It is Alla breve and that is what Rachmaninoff does. Why do we discount what the composer wanted and played himself? This gives a totally different direction to the entire piece.

Lisitsa rehearsing Rachmaninoff Concerto no 3 in Budapest

PJ: Tell me of your affinity and psychological relation to the work. We have a notion that when Rachmaninoff is played by pianists from the Russian tradition, there is a certain specific understanding and transmission of cultural and emotional contents taking place, like priests transforming the secrets of the mighty tradition?

VL: It has much more to do with the musical language I think. He borrows his musical language from orthodox church music, very Byzantine. Constructions derived from the oriental branch of Eastern Christianity. Long wavy phrases reflecting the slavic language. We write letters differently, our style of language is different. People in Russia make fun over the German language with long phrases and English is very straight and direct which clearly tells Who did What. In Russian it is not so clear. The Russian language tends to endings which close, one after another. So in this sense, it has nothing to do with emotions but language. The emotional side comes from people’s notion about Rachmaninoff. In the US, for example, he was treated as a Hollywood composer, he never wrote for Hollywood but film composers were asked to write in the style of Rachmaninoff. He was stigmatized for being the grand composer writing popular music. With that came also a notion in performance. The Hollywood idea of dramatize Russian literature like War and Peace or Doctor Zhivago epic saga theme emphasising the Russians to be sad and sentimental. This is not genuine. In that same way, the playing style of Rachmaninoff became seen as gloomy, sad and sentimental – the only thing missing would be a fur hat with a Russian star (laughs). A perfect caricature of the slavic soul.

I remember in music school and music history class our teacher played three versions of the G-minor Prelude for us asking us to guess who played which version and the pianists were Rubinstein, Richter, and Rachmaninoff. We were young and thought Richter was the pianist crashing and banging on the piano, Rubinstein is the more refined with a sort of feminine approach, Rachmaninoff with his big hands with the absolutely biggest sound. We were very surprised to realize that it was Rubinstein was playing in the American style and banging like crazy – which we thought was Rachmaninoff – while Rachmaninoff’s playing was the least interesting to us, too subdue and too light, we thought Rachmaninoff was Rubinstein.

Hear Rachmaninoff play:
Travel in Time and Meet Sergei Rachmaninoff

PJ: So you mean that the actual idea about Rachmaninoff is a construction?

VL: When young people ask me how to listen to Rachmaninoff then we first have to go through this mental barrier, sit down and actually listen to his playing and sound. We have to readjust to the style that is coming out. First it seems dry, light weight and it’s not emotional. That is a shock to people right? People tell me that he plays the third too fast, but in comparison to what? When people splash their hearts out in the piano and displaying their intescticles out through the piano like having a constant session going on with your psychiatrist over and over again. Like watching the movie Shine over and over again. But Rachmaninoff belonged to the Russian nobility shared a lot in common with the British; men do not cry, you don’t wear your emotions on your sleeve, everything is inside – so his music is a tension of what’s inside. When you understand this, you start looking at him totally differently.
We can hear Martha Argerich play Rach 3 so wonderfully and so exciting and then there is Rachmaninoff himself who doesn’t project the same emotions, it even sounds irritated like he is upset. It’s angry and everything is inside. But when he smiles at you just slightly you feel so happy, like he made your day.

PJ: Many young pianists competing in competitions play the third concerto. Do you think there is a different sound concept these days? Being a repertoire work it no longer seems so hard to play with a sort of ease and not with an aim to create these enormous monumental type interpretations (Horowitz/Ormandy & Ashkenazy/Fistoulari for example). Is it good that the concerto has become so popular and that so many pianists are playing Rach 3 these days?

VL: Well, it’s not good because it is not played correctly, not in Rachmaninoff style. People are doing it like they are doing Tchaikovsky or Chopin… Rachmaninoff style is not only the tempi. Tempo is the first thing we can tell, what is truly different about him is how he phrases. We have clear directions how to play when we learn Bach or Chopin. The most telling recording of how he phrases is not his recording of the third but rather the second movement of the first concerto. I give it as a task to people who ask me how to do it; go and try to play with him. And there is where style happens. His style is totally different from what we think of Russian music and Russian performance, what we despise in Russian playing, that everything is late. I will tell you why. Western pianists are trained to play chamber music with strings, in Russia everything was going from singing and singers with breathing is notorious for being late. There Ashkenazy’s style is painfully Russian as it adopts to this – taking big breaths and then letting everything go with great emotion, a vocal style. When we listen to Rachmaninoff he is doing the opposite thing, his downbeat comes before the beat when we measure it. We pianists have limited tools at our disposal, we have a percussion instrument so we play with weight and gravity but we really play it with our time machine, so we stretch sometimes. And when we hear Rachmaninoff in this example, he stretches his downbeat so it gets outside the sonic construction. Actually, if we listen to singers in popular music from Russia and the West from the 1910s and 20s they are doing the same way. It is totally different from the operatic approach. We were growing up and there was of course Horowitz and everybody was crazy about him and those who could copy him and Horowitz was painfully copying Rachmaninoff in the third concerto. Phrases with accents, very active starting points before the beat. In Horowitz case, it also coincided with accents, and everybody was copying this. The misconception became rule just like what we said about tempo which is not fast but Alla breve.

PJ: What about the Russian concept of “Intonatsiia”, whereas you use more time when you need to go far on the keyboard?

VL: This is the concept of opera which works wonderfully in Mozart but not in Rachmaninoff, you think of an interval of a stretch, the big interval takes you more time in duration. Good opera singers though don’t need longer time to reach the right notes in all registers.

PJ: Were you aware of these facts when you started working on the Rachmaninoff concertos project?

VL: No, it was natural for me to study the way he was playing as opposed to referring to which teachers I learned from. I would put on headphones and play along with him. I think our perception of timing is very different from what it is in reality. Only when you play simultaneously easy melodies, you can discover where you are early or late and experience what he does. I studied for a long time not with an aim to say I copied Rachmaninoff because that is impossible, but more like we are like lenses in cameras. Different lenses and different cameras and the same object will always look different.

PJ: How many times have you performed the third concerto?

VL: I didn’t count but maybe 25-30 times.

PJ: What has happened during this journey?

VL: In the beginning you are so much involved, busy, it is such an immense piece of music… you are in the thick of the battle. You go up in ranks in the army so to speak, you star as an infantryman you are fighting in drenches, you get shot, you don’t know if you are going to survive, and if you survive to the end, it is already a victory. Then you can end up leading a small group of people of a batallion and if you make it to generals rank, you can watch the battle from a distance and send an army of 200 people if needed.

PJ: Ever since the rise of the movie Shine in 1996 and the idea about Rach 3 being the Mount Everest for pianists, the idea has also been that this climb shall be done by big strong male performers preferably Russian and with big hands. With recordings of you and Yuja Wang and many other virtuoso female performers, this idea seems extremely old fashioned.

VL: I thought maybe that the general opinion about Brahms’ concertos and particularly the B-flat was even more male in that sense… Playing piano is easy so let’s put it this way; we want our audience to believe that it’s very difficult. Musicians using their lips and embouchure cannot practice more than two hours in order to function, also, string players have to be very careful about natural position and so on in order not to make music making painful. We pianists can just sit down like in an armchair and play with gravity we have a little help with our hands, mechanical rebound from the instrument so basically very easy to play regardless of gender. The problem is on the perception side and what people want to hear. It also has to do with cultural things, we can historically see a difference in audience. All those crazy women who listened to Liszt and at that same time Clara Schumann was consertizing and yet people recommended her not to play great works like the Appassionata, but the audience was female. The problem with gender happens in studies when little boys and girls start playing an instrument and it was expected that boys will be boys and girls will be girls and they all play all these exciting pieces and girls will be nice and womanly. Gender roles in classical education like in Soviet music schools. When there was a boy that played in a feminine way, this boy was usually promoted because he was “musical” but if a girl played in a masculine way – like I did playing virtuoso pieces – I was labeled unmusical. Good technique but unmusical. So I was crossing my gender. Now as an adult, I don’t get opinions like that anymore but in school and at competitions. Because there are expectations. I even had arguments with my teacher about how I should portray disastrous music or something terrible by having a beautiful sound. I am still undecided about that.

PJ: Thank you for enlightening us about your thoughts and work. We hope to see you soon again in Stockholm!

Listen:
Valentina Lisitsa – Live at the Royal Albert Hall


/patrick
 
     



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