Piano Street Magazine

Horowitz’s Master Alfred Cortot Speaks … and Plays…

December 29th, 2010 in Top Video Picks by | 3 comments

A century ago, before the world was so flat, national styles of music making were a given. The French school of pianism, for example, was known for its fleet technique and lyrical delicacy – the aural equivalent, perhaps, of the nation’s haute cuisine.

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* Pianist Murray Perahia presents highlights of live recordings made during Cortot’s 1954-60 Master Classes in Paris, featuring the pianist playing many works he never formally recorded. *

This unique historical document came about when Perahia — a great admirer of the French pianist’s playing — learned that Cortot’s master classes between 1954 and 1960 at the École Normale de Musique in Paris had been recorded, with Cortot’s permission, by Pierre Thouzery. Despite the variable sound of the tapes and the fact that Cortot did not always play complete works during the classes, Perahia was convinced that these recordings yielded some remarkable playing and an unparalleled insight into the world of one of the greatest interpretive artists of the twentieth century. He is executive producer of Alfred Cortot – The Master Classes, and he offers extensive commentary in the accompanying booklet.

Alfred Cortot teaches and plays Schumann´s Kinderszenen Op.15, “The Poet Speaks”:

“The Poet Speaks” – piano sheet music to download and print:

Translation of what Cortot says in French in the above video:

It seems to me that this last piece, The Poet Speaks, which is the title Schumann gave to this immortal work, should be a transition into a kind of intimate reverie. It is not just about making a beautiful sound and expressive phrasing. You also need to create a sense of dreaming. The truth is, you need to dream this piece, rather than play it.
Will you allow me to take your place?

Bar 4-6:
These two phrases are not connected.
They are two different elements…
of the same musical state.

Bar 9-10:
Here, like a question…
Bar 11-12:
And here again, another, tenderly asking the way.
Bar 13-16:
And from this moment, you should convey the music not just through the notes but through some kind of inspiration drawn from its immortal spirit.

Bar 21-25:
Now the sonorities should fade away…grow fainter and dimmer…and you are left simply in the presence of a reminiscent dream.


Alfred Cortot: The Master Classes (amazon.com)

Read about Cortot Masterclasses on musicweb-international.com

Video: Alfred Cortot – Greatest Interpreter of Chopin

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  • pianisten1989 says:

    For us who doesn’t speak French – is there a version with subtitles?

  • nearenough says:

    Maybe Cortot’s ideas are so profound that it’s well worth learning the French language to hear them.

  • nilsjohan says:

    You are probably right, nearenough, but for those of you who are busy celebrating holidays and do not have the time necessary for learning French available at the moment, we have now added a translation.

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