Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Music Post

Sadly, considering the fact that I studied piano for years, I don't know much about music, so any music posts of mine are bound to be uninformative (to put it nicely). Still, I feel inclined to follow my hermit friend's example by sharing and commenting on some youtube videos.

First, a video of Glenn Gould playing the first movement of Bach's harpsichord/piano concerto in D minor. I found it a striking and pleasing recording the first time I heard it, and the feeling hasn't worn off yet. A lot of credit is probably due to the fact that a piano was used instead of a harpsichord, but Gould's articulation surely contributed significantly as well. In any case, several parts that are unremarkable in other recordings become interesting and meaningful in this version. It's not so background-musicky, to put it simply.

Next are two "Liebesleid" videos: The first is Fritz Kreisler playing his own composition. The second video is Sergei Rachmaninoff playing his arrangement of Kreisler's piece. I include these two mainly because of the novelty of having both composers play their own versions of the song.
The title notwithstanding, the piece doesn't sound particularly tragic to me (probably it isn't supposed to). Melancholic, perhaps, but not without a healthy amount of optimism. Perhaps the song of a spoiled person who has come across some temporary love-related obstacles . . . Someone who keeps forgetting that he's supposed to be sad, because he doesn't actually have a good reason to be sad in the first place . . .

Now for two Hungarian dances by Brahms: the fifth, as played by Yehudi Menuhin, and the seventh, as played by Jascha Heifetz. What interests me about these two videos is the different approaches to tempo.
I think it has more to do with the piece than the interpretation, but I find the Hungarian dance #5 too rushed and hectic. The piano, especially, seems to be labouring to keep up at times. An unsettling effect on the whole.
In the Hungarian dance #7, on the other hand, I really like the variations in tempo, and I find the piece much less disjointed and much more dance-like.

On a different note (ho ho ho), here are two Händel videos, to illustrate my unreasonable prejudice against operas written in a language I understand: First, "Tornami a vagheggiar" from Alcina (sung by Joan Sutherland), which is in a language I *don't* understand, and which I enjoy. Normally, arias are not my cup of tea, but this one is an exception; it grew on me.
The second, "Happy We" (from Acis and Galatea) begins about five minutes into the video, and is a prime example of the occasional operatic silliness that becomes more evident if one understands the language. It's not that I don't understand the reasons for repetition in opera. It is usually done well, too (in Acis and Galatea, and elsewhere). However, repeating a word as ordinary and childish as "happy" so often is a bit much. If one considers the scales and flourishes, too, some parts of the duet verge on parody.
If I don't understand the language, I don't see the words as words, but as part of the music. Consequently, I am not bothered by incongruous mundanity; no ill-fitting associations or connotations intrude upon my appreciation of the music.

Anyway, one final violin video in honour of slides -- those ever-amusing representations of an old-fashioned and somewhat exaggerated sentimentality: In this video, Heifetz appears once again, this time playing Schubert's Ave Maria. Apparently he was only sixteen years old at the time of the recording.

And, just because it's so delightful (if, as my hermit friend says, one hasn't heard it fifty times), here is an encore: Kreisler playing "Schön Rosmarin" (again, his own composition).


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