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Topic: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?  (Read 6997 times)

Offline mostlyclassical

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Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
on: May 08, 2007, 11:05:50 AM
Hi everyone,

just heard the Schiff lecture on the D major sonata no. 7 (op.10 no 3) https://music.guardian.co.uk/classical/page/0,,1943867,00.html.
Listen to 2:20 and 5:50. He claims the 4 equal semi quaver approach taken by most pianists on bar 53 (I think) is nonsense. I like this pianist a lot and it surprised me to hear such an "inflexible" comment, to say the least.
Historical and notational reasons aside (and I believe at that era, Beethoven could quite normally write what he did, and mean 4 semiquavers) to my ears, Schiff's interpretation sounds bad and disruptive to the flow of the music.
What do you think?
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Offline counterpoint

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #1 on: May 08, 2007, 11:48:49 AM
Yes, that's strange

I wonder, how Schiff plays Rondo alla turca...   ::)
If it doesn't work - try something different!

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #2 on: May 08, 2007, 01:11:40 PM
because of how well he plays - that doesn't bother me as much as measures 103-104 - where obviously if beethoven had had a bigger piano -he wouldn't have fudged on not playing the octaves.  measure 103 being complete octaves - and then travesty on measure 104.  this is NOT what beethoven would have intended had he had the range.

i love hearing andre schiff play beethoven.  it inspires me to play more precisely in most areas.  although - if precision is with the way he plays the four semi-quavers - i'd prefer the non-historical rendition.

Offline electrodoc

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #3 on: May 08, 2007, 10:30:36 PM
Interesting to note that Gilels played the four semiquavers the same way as Schiff.

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #4 on: May 18, 2007, 02:03:07 AM
This could be an interesting conversation of the notion of right or wrong in music.  In these lectures, Schiff also complains that all pianists take the first movement of the "Moonlight" too slow, since it is marked alla breve - so the slow beat is the half note, not the quarter.  He even uses the word, "wrong," to describe the slower interpretations.

But if the recordings of such pianists as Schnabel, Arrau, Paderewski, etc, are wrong, what happens to our perception of their beauteous sound, and strong atmosphere?  Can anything that compelling and mysterious be "wrong?"  The idea goes to the very notion of how creativity applies to interpretation.

Of course, then Schiff goes on to demonstrate "Liebesbotschaft" from Schwanengesang, which is marked "Ziemlich langsam" meaning very slow, or "Lento assai," at a much too fast tempo. :)  Thus disproving his point entirely. :)

Walter Ramsey

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #5 on: May 18, 2007, 11:43:45 AM
The more I think about this the more I realize it is an issue of fundamentalism.  Schiff is scrupulous in his reading of the score, and one can only commend that, but for other performances to be "wrong" is like saying every word in the Bible is literally true, and those that don't subscribe to every word are not Christians.

I didn't read the Pope's new book, "Jesus of Nazareth," but a review in Newsweek says that for many passages in the Gospel, the Pope doesn't consider it necessary to believe those events happened literally.  Instead, the truth is found in meditation on what those events mean.  I think it is much a similar situation: those old Romantic recordings from pianistic greats where the Moonlight is played slowly and atmospherically, contain a truth of their own, and the music wouldn't have been played like that for so many generations if it was totally false.

Even though Schiff is being as literal as possible, he is still applying personal value judgments.  For instance his argument is based on what an appropriate "slow 2" feels to him.  But Gould, to pick a name at random, was capable of feeling music much slower.

I'm sure I know exactly who on this forum is going to reply to this message, so everyone else please beat that person to the punch!

Walter Ramsey

Offline maxy

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #6 on: May 18, 2007, 04:03:50 PM
I find there is a "salon" feel to all pieces played by Schiff.  It is A way to conceive things, but it is not THE only way.  I have seen him play once in recital.  It was textbook playing in every way, he is a great pianist, yet I did not like him very much. 

If you don't agree with what he said, that is quite fine, different pianists do different things. It's like the eternal debate over the tempo of the 3rd mvt of Beethoven's op. 57: "allegro ma non troppo".  What is "non troppo" ?  Some people can play extremely fast without ever giving the impression of rushing.  There is room for interpretation.

Offline pianistimo

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #7 on: May 18, 2007, 06:25:35 PM
actually agree with you, ramseytheii, about reading a score perhaps too literally.  although, i always thought that the grace note meant simple to tell a person that the first real eighth note is the note of importance.  but, of course, if you play them evenly - they all get the same importance - but it sounds better that way.

ok. for masterclasses, schiff is the man.  but, for listeners pleasure - there are distinctions between perfection and what sounds good and right to the ear.  perhaps the right and wrong are not literal rights and wrongs - but what can be explained by the pianist to be their understanding of how to make beethoven come alive.

as i see it - he was working with a piano that had not yet reached it's prime.  now we have more notes - more ways to play - more freedom.  so we don't necessarily want to go back to a small salon to play beethoven.  he was all about expansion.  the last sonatas can't really be played properly on the pianos of beethoven's time.  didn't he used to break a lot of strings?

also, i feel this four note motive is from the very first 'ba da da da...' staccato motive which starts the entire piece off.  it would make MUCH more sense if you also played the first beat of the entire piece as a grace note.  maybe we could consider it part of the humor of this piece that way.

ps regarding taking the bible literally - even Jesus said that he would use the 'sign' of Jonah (three days and nights) - so He himself must have believed that Jonah (one of the more difficult signs to believe) was truly swallowed by a whale or great fish.  the bible says great fish - and people take it to mean that it had to be a whale. 

Offline ramseytheii

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Re: Schiff wrong on Beethoven op.10/3?
Reply #8 on: May 19, 2007, 06:07:18 PM
actually agree with you, ramseytheii, about reading a score perhaps too literally.  although, i always thought that the grace note meant simple to tell a person that the first real eighth note is the note of importance.  but, of course, if you play them evenly - they all get the same importance - but it sounds better that way.

ok. for masterclasses, schiff is the man.  but, for listeners pleasure - there are distinctions between perfection and what sounds good and right to the ear.  perhaps the right and wrong are not literal rights and wrongs - but what can be explained by the pianist to be their understanding of how to make beethoven come alive.

You hit on an important point there.  Perhaps one of the most disturbing things about his lectures are that his explanations are so convincing, that he can explain his interpretation totally.  But a nagging doubt remains: if this is so true, how can the other recordings be so convincing also, and without words?  Sometimes truth comes from the spirit, and not from concrete realities.  Do they negate each other?  I don't know.  Schiff would like one to negate the other.  He called the earlier performances "false tradition."  There's no doubt about his intention.

Walter Ramsey
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