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Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists (Read 838 times)

Offline samwitdangol

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Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists
« on: June 12, 2020, 12:14:29 AM »
Hello,

Do you prefer pianists of the past, such as Vladimir Horowitz, or today's pianists, such as Seong-Jin Cho?
Who do you think is more proficient technically and musically?
Currently working on:

Beethoven Sonata 22 and 27
Chopin Nocturne Op. 15 No. 1
Bach Sinfonia 2
Czerny Op. 740
Scarlatti K. 18

Offline pianoannieq

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Re: Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists
«Reply #1 on: June 12, 2020, 03:41:41 AM »
Hi Samwitdangol,

I don't think one could compare which group of pianists is more technically or musically better. I think it's all a matter of personal taste since piano playing has evolved greatly :)

For me, it really depends on the composer. For example, I like younger pianists' interpretations of Beethoven and Chopin more than some of the older masters', but Argerich's recording of the Tchaikovsky Concerto and Horowitz's recording of Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto are unmatched. I think that today's concert pianists bring fresher ideas into their playing to make their own original interpretation on a piece (compare Barenboim's Beethoven's sonatas with any young artist's recording). The Chopin Competition is a great example; you can hear the differences in each pianist's interpretation of the same piece. On the other hand, I feel there hasn't been a pianist who can compare to performances of some of the older pianists. Their performances contain so much maturity and really make the audience feel something. Again, I enjoy listening to both, and if anyone would like to reply with any recordings I'd be happy to take a listen :)
I hate music (and sarcasm) :)

Beethoven Sonata 18
Liszt Rhapsodie Espagnole
Prokofiev Sonata 4 op.29
Scriabin Piano Concerto

Offline ranjit

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Re: Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists
«Reply #2 on: June 12, 2020, 06:05:18 AM »
I think we tend to remember the best of older pianists ("rose-tinted glasses"), and compare them to the good ones today. So, I'd say it's wrong to compare Horowitz to Yuja Wang or Valentina Lisista, he's clearly much better. It also takes a while for an artist to mature. Zimerman is fantastic today, clearly better than he was when he won the Chopin competition (the recording is available on youtube).

That said, I prefer the older pianists in general for a few reasons. There wasn't as much emphasis on note-perfect accuracy, and there was more scope for genuinely interesting interpretations imo. On a scale from 1-10, I'd rate Horowitz a genuine 10, one of the greats of the last century. But I would still prefer many modern pianists to Gilels, for example, whose interpretations never did it for me.

I can say for sure that pretty much no one has surpassed the greats of the 20th century in terms of technique. Cziffra's Grand Galop Chromatique comes to mind -- no one I've seen today can do what he did with the piece.

Offline cuberdrift

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Re: Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists
«Reply #3 on: June 12, 2020, 09:42:55 AM »
I'm a bit biased personally towards the older pianists (generally those before Argerich), though admittedly I rarely listen to newer ones' recordings.

I have read a lot of times that the older ones tended to be more wide-ranging in their interpretative styles. I can see only two possible explanations for this:

1.) The proliferation of music conservatories and piano competitions have placed a stronger emphasis on "fidelity to the score" and note-perfect accuracy than before, placing in the minds of most pianists to aim for this goal (instead of a more unique and arbitrary form of playing);

2.) The ones we know as "the old pianists" today are a select few that stood out even against the best of their time, whereas most "great pianists" today are not yet judged by history - this would imply that pianists before weren't necessarily better or more creative on average, just that the most creative and the best of them are what we remember today.

Just my theories.

I still feel that #1 might be a more sensible explanation...it's possible that the lack of highly standardized approaches to piano performance resulted in more room for interpretation.

I can say for sure that pretty much no one has surpassed the greats of the 20th century in terms of technique. Cziffra's Grand Galop Chromatique comes to mind -- no one I've seen today can do what he did with the piece.

Technique is a complex discussion - but in terms of technique defined as the ability to hammer out the hardest of passages with relative ease and cleanliness/clarity, I feel that today's elite pianists are in general better than those of the past. There might not be anyone who has surpassed Michelangeli or Cziffra...but Hamelin I feel is no joke either.

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That said, I prefer the older pianists in general for a few reasons. There wasn't as much emphasis on note-perfect accuracy, and there was more scope for genuinely interesting interpretations imo. On a scale from 1-10, I'd rate Horowitz a genuine 10, one of the greats of the last century.

It's crazy how your posts sometimes are so similar to mine lol...I actually created a thread before of a "levels" system of pianists where 10 was the highest (that which only Horowitz/Gould/Richter belonged to), the preference towards older pianists, and the observation of today's apparent obsession towards note perfection.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Older Pianists vs. Newer Pianists
«Reply #4 on: June 12, 2020, 10:38:34 AM »
I think that the advent of recording technology has also played a role in cementing an obsession for note-perfect accuracy. Zimerman repeatedly expresses his distaste for audio recordings, and I agree with him to an extent. I play stuff all the time when people request things, none of which I would put out as recordings because there are plenty of mistakes in the notes. But that's not the point! What matters is the feeling which is conveyed, and that comes about due to experimentation, spontaneity, and adapting to the audience, at least for me.

I think another part of the reason for the obsession with note-perfect accuracy is the current obsession with quantifiable metrics.