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Christmas Music for Piano: Jeffrey Biegel Plays Sleigh Ride

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Author Topic: Mendelssohn, Op. 102, No. 6, "Faith"  (Read 12818 times)
rachfan
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« on: July 19, 2006, 03:41:58 AM »

From the Songs without Words"

* 13 Op. 102, No. 6.mp3 (2806.01 KB - downloaded 151 times.)
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piano sheet music of Faith
jfmgoodwick
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« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2010, 04:41:43 PM »

Couldn't download this.  Peasant's SOng came up instead Opus 102 No.5
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rachfan
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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2010, 08:39:45 PM »

Hi jfm,

When I click on the recording then follow the little score excerpt inserted there, what's playing is definitely "Faith", Op. 102, No. 6, exactly as marked in the title of my posting.  I also double checked the piece in both the Ricordi and Schirmer editions, and the numbering I used is correct. This piece is the 48th or the very last one in the collection in the Ricordi edition.  The Schirmer includes a 49th, a posthumous "Boat Song".

"The Peasant's Song" (or in the Schirmer edtion called "The Joyous Peasant") is actually Op. 102, No. 5--which I've never played--not No. 6 which is what is posted and correctly titled.  I haven't seen this posting since 2006 and am amazed that over 400 people have visited this "song" since then!    

I certainly appreciate your listening to one of my pieces so way far back in the Piano Street archives. Thanks!  Smiley
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furtwaengler
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2010, 09:36:09 AM »

I saw this up here and it didn't register that this was you, Rachfan, probably because I knew your current focus on Catoire. And then I see the date and everything makes sense.

Ah, tis good to have faith. Mendelssohn was a super special creator and lover of music which far too many musicians somehow fail to appreciate. It's baffling, really. This older recording finds a simple, refreshing purity which refreshed my mind. It's like a cold drink of water, and yet there's this childlike playfulness which through his short life never left him, even in his most serious statements. I think it's the same nature of a child from which springs the purity. It's just so fresh, so clean...I adore Mendelssohn!

Thanks for posting it, even if it was not a current thought!
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rachfan
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2010, 03:35:27 PM »

Hi Dave,

You had good courage to listen to that old Mendelssohn "song"!  Thanks for that!  Not only was it posted in 2006, but it's an "historical recording" Grin dating from 1991 when I was studying with my second teacher.  I got to choose all the repertoire then, as I wanted to explore composers I hadn't played--part of the well-rounded student's goal.  I just clicked on it now to listen.  Egad!  I'd play that piece much differently now!  Plus it's a close-in analog recording with its wow and flutter, and the piano sounds out of tune to boot.  I like the sound of my piano better since the rebuilding in 2007.  This is one recording that should stay in the back of the archives!  But if you like the Songs without Words, I posted a ton of them at the time.  If you go to the Index of Audition Room at the top of the list here and go Mendelssohn, you'll find my list there.  I never developed an affinity to his music, so there are probably others here who do a much better job than I in presenting them.  

I agree with your assessment of Mendelssohn.  Over the decades he's become less of a giant than Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Brahms.  In that sense, he reminds me of Weber.  His own interest was much more slanted toward orchestral works and concertos.  When his publisher would rattle him for more piano solos (because of public demand), he'd get anxieties, because he felt it was not his best medium, but eventually composed some pieces.  The Songs without Words are one of the best collections ever offered by a composer.  There is something there for everyone, plus the grades of difficulty are varied too.  

When Anton Rubinstein would listen to a young pianist who wanted to perform a virtuosic piece for him, to judge the pianist's merits, Rubinstein would always insist on one or two Mendelssohn "Songs" instead. That simplicity, purity, and childlike quality that you mention is the major difficulty in these pieces. They leave the pianist no place to hide, and Rubinstein knew it!

David
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furtwaengler
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« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2010, 10:56:08 PM »

I didn't know about Mendelssohn's anxieties...I'd have thought his own proficiency on the piano plus the ease with which he composed would have squelched these! But what of his music do I hold especially dear? Well it is indeed not the solo piano music; it is the symphonies, Paulus, Elijah, the violin concerto, the early string symphonies, the violin sonata he wrote when he was 11 (!), and oh...the two trio's, my goodness. The the D minor Trio's slow movement's theme is one of the most beautiful ever penned, and in the C minor Trio, the dramatic fire throughout, all leading to that glorious transition to the choral in the finale ! How do I express my pleasure? It is some of the greatest music we have. Mendelssohn was not a child prodigy who never blossomed; he truly mastered his supreme gifts.

From the pianist's perspective - that is, the solo literature - I can see certain things may not achieve his standard (the F-sharp minor Fantasy, ect.). But still there is much there which needs not be so neglected. I will check out some of your other Songs Without Words! 
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2010, 12:01:28 AM »

Hi furtwaegler,

Not only did Mendelssohn get the willies when asked to compose more piano solos, but there was another vagary of performance that he complained about a lot--"preluding".  In his day a piano recital, as you probably know, was not structured the way we see and hear it today, where the program indicates perhaps a sonata, a group of character pieces, an intermission, and a book of preludes for example, and the artist plays it accordingly.  Back then it was necessary to improvise a prelude which would then modulate into the first piece, then at the end would come a transitional prelude into the next piece and so on.  Thus, what recital goers would hear would be a continuous sound of music.  An analogy today might be in a church where between works sung by the chorus, the organist improvises briefly to fill in the quiet space.  It's a similar concept for a different purpose.  Some of the artists and composers of the day were more proficient at preluding than others.  Mendelssohn was very good but didn't enjoy it and used to deride in his letters.  In Liszt's classes, if a student had the audacity to begin a piece cold turkey without preluding it, Liszt would sternly stop him immediately and insist on preluding, even if it was a simple three-chord cadence as a lead-in to the piece's key signature.  It was simply the order of the day--de rigeur--and audiences expected it.

Most of that preluding has been lost to history, as obviously it was before the time of recordings.  BUT... Mendelssohn wrote two of them down into his scores!  One is the slow, lyrical introduction to the Rondo Capriccioso in Em, and the other is the Song without Words Op. 38, No. 4, "Hope".  When I used to play "Hope", I recall being baffled by the seeming irrelevance of that little introduction of florishes.  Now musicologists strongly believe that it's preluding actually captured in the score when the piece first went to the  publisher.  So we can be grateful to Mendelssohn for those two very rare glimpses of preluding from a bygone era.  They were right under our noses for generations before anyone understood what they were.  

I agree on your on the larger works you mention in your message.  They are beautiful indeed and will always stand the tests of time and universality.
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furtwaengler
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 12:22:52 AM »

Mendelssohn's introduction to the Rondo Capriccioso is quite inspired, I think.

Have you ever experimented with this sort of thing just for fun? I wonder what would happen if Liszt in his prime, with no introduction to who he was, appeared in the manner as was normal to him for a major recital with all of today's critics present? I love thinking these things.

This is different, but I am reminded of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's (and probably Walter Legge's) refusal to allow Sony to release a set of Strauss songs because of Glenn Gould adding his own involved improvisational touches to the score, and ultimate refusal to stick to what Strauss wrote. I wish so much that I could hear those recordings!
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2010, 02:40:05 AM »

Hi furtwaengler,

 Grin  Not being much of an improviser, I'd find playing a really clever "preluding" daunting.  I think I could probably do a very short mundane one by starting it on the dominant and winding it down over a couple of measures to the tonic key of the piece (assuming that the piece even starts on the tonic) to launch it.  I'm afraid that would be the limit of my creativity in preluding at best.  We should all try it though to better appreciate why Mendelssohn found it so irksome.  I don't discount the possibility that his criticism of the practice could have hastened the advent of the recital program format as we now experience it.

On Liszt, everything is relative, of course.  We continue to think of Liszt as the greatest pianist of all time, although all we can base that on are the commentaries of artists, students, critics, and other observers of the time, but not on recordings unfortunately.  And when we do hear performances of artists at the very inception of recording technologies, we're startled sometimes by the idiosyncracies and liberties that would never pass muster with modern auditors.  We do know that Liszt tended toward playing the piano mostly with his fingers with a quiet hand with less visible use of the arm and body than we use today.  If we could hear him now, we might come to believe that he wouldn't survive the first round of a competition!  But then again... we might be amazed!  But to bring it into perspective, think of Rubinstein, Serkin, Horowitz and Richter.  When I was young, they were "The Big Four".  But today we have young artists who could easily play circles around them.  Maybe they could do the same with Liszt too.
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2010, 03:19:20 AM »

I think I remember you posting an improvisation on the improvisation board, and I think I remember it being pretty good! I'm going to go refresh.  Smiley But for any improviser...how are you going to start the Liszt Sonata?  Grin

I would like to think Liszt played with the kind of freedom of expression that, were he to perform today we'd all realize we've been trapped in prison by the sort of standard the age of recordings has produced. But who knows...maybe performers of our age would bring something out in him? In any case, I'll bet competitions would have as much to do with him as they have to do with music...he'd not have a chance! That reflects my prejudice against competitions, and what I'm about to type reflects my fanship to that big four you listed...I don't know of anybody who can play circles around Sviatoslav Richter! If the argument is technique...Richter had the mind and sweeping vision that made technique mean something, and his technique was so unquestionably strong that he was able to destroy the whole awareness of the mechanism (haha, he's my favorite musician...I HAVE to defend him! Grin). It is hard to match the anatomical freedom with which Artur Rubinstein played...but I know people will count his wrong notes in Chopin's waltz's. Vladimir Horowitz...well I have to have patience with his quirks, but how daring was he? And who among us is so bold and daring as he? Serkin...My teacher studied with Serkin and gave me some quotes, my favorite being "I had tendinitis, but I BURNED it out."  Shocked I can see him coming on this board and people going nuts..."Rudolf, you're going to have to loosen up or you'll never be a pianist!" (I guess I could say the same for Horowitz's "locked" octaves).

(I know Hamelin, Aimard and others are able to play anything anyway they want...I just wanted to get that in about Richter!)

And Mendelssohn's role in today's concert format? Maybe he focused us a bit.  
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2010, 04:17:15 AM »

Hi furtwaegler,

The Big Four were my piano heroes for sure when I was growing up and later in life too, so I can't be too critical.  And I didn't mean to demean Richter in any way.  I do think that in his last years he was no longer at peak performance, but who is?  I remember being in a dorm room at university when his live performance of Pictures at an Exhibition came out on LP.  There were four of us listening intently.  There are some big risks taken there and some wrong notes, but nonetheless, we were all left speechless!  So, yeah, he was a great.  Horowitz had his oddities, but when everything broke just right for him, he was an incredible virtuoso.  Who could not love Rubinstein?  When he'd come to Symphony Hall in Boston, every last seat was sold out, and all the conservatory students had stage seats near the piano.  When the stage door would fly open and he'd come out, there was electricity in the air and the the applause was thunderous!  In looking at the Big Four for role models, for me it was always Rubinstein.  Serkin in recital was nervous as a witch.  He'd sit on the piano bench and polish his glasses so vigorously, it looked like he was regrinding the lenses!  Then he'd figet some more and wipe his brow.  But once he played the first note, all of that disappeared, he was transfixed and his playing of the Viennese Classics was magic.  I remember being at a performance of a Mozart Concerto at the Tanglewood Music Festival featuring Serkin and Boston Symphony with Leinsdorf conducting.  The ovation was so huge and prolonged, they had to replay the last movement! Now how often in your lifetime do you witness that? Maybe they should be called "The Fantastic Four", as they truly were.  As I think about it, they all played with character--not the antiseptic playing we hear all too often now.

I say amen to your prejudice about competitions.  There is nothing wrong with them except for these small details:

1. They say they want the pianists' individuality to infuse their playing, but then promptly disqualify anyone who does so during the first round.

2. The same adjudicators appear at all the competitions and the same axes are ground.  

3. Because the semifinalists are all playing plain vanilla style, it's hard to differentiate them.

4. The finalists who play it safe, deliver standard renditions, and do not drop notes under the piano win.

5. If you add up all the winners in all the competitions, there is no possible way for impressarios and the "classical music business" to absorb and promote them all.  There are simply not enough opportunities.

6. The really big competitions like the Tchaikovsky, Leeds, Van Cliburn, Chopin, Queen Elizabeth, etc. have cache and are meaningful, but the lesser ones do far less to create or advance careers.  A medal there is more like a merit badge.

7. Some young winners who should be continuing studies and building repertoire, instead accept management and guaranteed appearances, take their six programs on tour and are soon ruined and forgotten.

If I left anything out, feel free to add to it. Grin
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2010, 06:14:18 PM »

^Haha, this is a very fun and true rant. Van Cliburn himself was sort of the prototypical competition pianist as you describe, even up to playing the same six recitals his entire career...though I must admit what he does play often does display the insight of musical genius.

I started playing piano when I was 11 years old, and my first musical hero indeed was Artur Rubinstein, and for a child growing up, who is a role model of more joy and integrity? Horowitz was my second, and his quirks give me difficulty mainly because I know I copied him as a child, and it was hard but necessary to escape that degree of influence. And then Richter hit me like a force of nature. I love all of these artists, but I've found myself most in love with a previous era at the edge of recorded history (for which they all were a part, actually!)...the Busch Quartet (Adolph was R. Serkin's father-in-law, I believe), the Vegh Quartet, the Hungarian String Quartet...conductors of the era (I screennamed my favorite!), pianists, etc. etc. etc. It's a lost age I want so much to resurrect.
  
I remember being at a performance of a Mozart Concerto at the Tanglewood Music Festival featuring Serkin and Boston Symphony with Leinsdorf conducting.  The ovation was so huge and prolonged, they had to replay the last movement! Now how often in your lifetime do you witness that?

Do you remember any more details about this concert? Which concerto he played...what else was on the program...the date it took place? This all fascinates me, and I'm just curious....Leinsdorf had some TOWERING concerts at Tanglewood for which I've a few broadcasts in my collection. I like him very munch. (Oh Charles Munch...there's one to emulate!).

Anyway there is another concert...Richter ending an all Beethoven concert in the UK with op. 106 and encoring the entire final fugue to a roaring reception!

A man went on tour with Busoni, and at every stop the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the same spot every time in Chopin's op. 53 Polonaise. I LOVE these stories. Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2010, 08:12:21 PM »

Erich Leinsdorf conducted with his hands, no baton, and would often gaze up at the heavens (or rafters at least).  Leinsdorf knew his music though and could take the orchestra to great heights, no doubt about it.  Unfortunately he had a fairly chilly relationship with the BSO players.  There was an elderly french horn player back then too who was quite deaf and created some artistic problems during performances.  I think Leinsdorf was only there for five or six years.  Then William Steinberg arrived.  I saw him conduct too, and what a wonderful conductor he was, and the comradie with the players was greatly improved.  Unfortunately Steinberg died having had only a tenure of a few years like Leinsdorf.  Once Ozawa was appointed as a young man, he was there until his hair turned gray Grin.  He eschewed tails and in the beginning preferred to conduct in frock coats while wearing beads.  During his tenure he did a lot for the orchestra including foreign tours and widened the repertoire enormously including the symphonies of Mahler.  I had a lot of respect for him.  When we moved to Maine, I lost track of it all once James Levine took over.  But yes, I certainly do recall Charles Munch when I was very young (even Arthur Fiedler was much younger then  Grin.)  And when Earl Wild used to play Rhapsody in Blue with the POPS back then, he was a young guy too.  Down in my basement I believe I have a Munch recording with the BSO doing Ravel.  

Back at Tanglewood, one time my wife and I were there, sometime in the 70s.  We had a box and directly next to us was Madame Koussevitzky!  She was widowed and very elderly, but still attended the concerts there.  (I was too young though to be aware of Serge Koussevitzky when he was conductor in the 40s.)  Anyway, this time the guest conductor was James dePriest of the National Symphony.  I can't recall now what they were playing, but all of a sudden the baton flew out of dePriest's hand and hit the first desk cellist in the chest!  He wasn't injured and retained his aplomb.

Van Cliburn--when he won in Moscow he wasn't all that older than me.  So I always looked up to him and loved his performances of the Rach 3rd and Prokofiev 3rd Concerto.  It's a wonder I didn't wear out the record.  His performance of "The Maid and the Nightingale" is very poetic too.

To answer your question, I can't remember the date of that Serkin appearance at Tanglewood and didn't save the program at the time.  I was taking some summer classes at UMass at Amherst where I did my undergraduate degree, and a group of us got into a couple of cars and headed to the Berkshires.  Being destitute students, we camped out on the the lawn in front of the music shed.  I do know it had to be 1963 or 1964.  Sometimes Serkin in the excitement of his performances was known to slip off the damper pedal and it would snap up with the sound of a rifle going off, and that happened in that performance too.  It didn't detract at all though as proven by the ovation he got and having to repeat the third movement to quiet the audience.  

I agree with you on what the Big Four represented.  They had direct links to the Golden Age of Piano.  Richter had studied with Neuhaus, Rubinstein with Barth, Horowitz with Blumenfeld, and Serkin with Schnabel.  AND, they knew well the even older generation of pianists and attended their recitals frequently.  AND, they knew all the great music patrons and impressarios of the time.  When Arrau died, it seemed like the last few threads were being cut.  Unfortunatley, we'll soon be at the mercy of the antiseptic pianists.  The great news though is that we were exposed to that heritage and will continue to play with character in spite of it all.



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« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2010, 02:22:00 AM »

I have to thank this exchange between rachfan and furtwaengler.
Personally, very informative and enjoyable reading! Smiley
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« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2010, 02:34:39 AM »

Hi emill,

Glad you got a charge out of reading this stuff.  I must be getting old to recall all those experiences that still seem like yesterday.  But more importantly, our chat here diverts attention from this really bad Mendelssohn recording of mine from years ago. Grin  If you have a moment, please listen to my new Catoire recording instead.  My playing there is far more refined than what you find in this post. 
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« Reply #15 on: January 13, 2010, 04:51:49 AM »

Emill, Do take Rachfan up on his Catoire offer. It is indeed very, very good.

Rachfan, Leinsdorf/BSO is not the only combination of musicians who made wonderful music despite a rocky relationship. But even still the studio recordings come up dry when compared to the broadcasts. I remember one in particular, a Bruckner 4th Symphony which followed John Browning's electrifying Prokofiev 2nd! And just as I say this I remember Leinsdorf's studio Prokofiev with the BSO is thrilling indeed. Koussy, Munch, and Leinsdorf were all legends in there own right, and Ozawa brought his certain vibrancy - By the way I've read he's being treated in the early stages of esophageal cancer. I saw him do Strauss's Salome in Vienna in 2002, and he can still jump on that podium! I'm jealous...I basketballed my knees to dust all too early.

But you mention Steinberg. It's sad that not a lot of people remember or know about Steinberg. I was born in 1981, so with many of these names our life spans did not cross, but it is a friend, who is actually a high school English teacher in Washington D.C. who is a large collector of reels, concerts, broadcasts and such, and William Steinberg is his favorite musician. He's not a collector for the sake of collecting; he's a collector because he loves music. A musician he is not, but as a thinker on music he has taught me as much about music as any musician has, and indeed I have come to value his opinion even more. Add to this I've not actually met him in the flesh...just email lists and correspondence and CD's in the mail! He introduced me to Steinberg...in Boston, in Pittsburgh, in New York, in Buffalo, touring in Vienna, etc. Special stuff. A phenomenon...and almost no commercial recordings. But my, what a force...Mahler 2, Mahler 7 (shaking Vienna's world with the touring BSO)...Bruckner 6, an angry, menacing Bruckner 8...Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances...the Beethoven/Mahler 9th...a blistering Dvorak Piano Concerto with Firkušný...and on and on. He was the real deal.

I count you a fortunate man to see any of the artists in this thread perform in person!  
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« Reply #16 on: January 13, 2010, 06:19:45 AM »

Hi Dave,

I believe you're right.  In his time Steinberg did not receive the attention and accolades of a Bernstein, Solti, or Ormandy.  He was a quieter personality, not a prima donna in any sense.  But on the podium he was so very effective--a conductor's conductor. 

Gee, I didn't know about Ozawa's illness.  Back in the 80s I worked for a few years at Wang Laboratories, Inc. where the founder and president was Dr. An Wang.  Years later he had esophageal cancer.  He had infinite personal resources and the very best and most sophisticated care in Boston but did not make it.  That's a difficult cancer to overcome.  I hope for the best for Ozawa.

Looking back, it was good to see those great artists perform, as you point out.  I'm much richer for that experience.

David
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